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SAVOY — Want to earn more than $22 an hour to start training for a new career?
Applications are being accepted for the next apprenticeship cohort of UA Local 149 Plumbers and Pipefitters, and interested applicants will get a chance this week to see the union’s brand-new larger training center at 1005 N. Dunlap Ave., Savoy.
A grand opening with tours and equipment demonstrations for local officials and union leaders will be held at 4:30 p.m. today, and anyone interested in applying to the apprenticeship program is invited to a second event — an open house set for 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday.
The new 24,000-square-foot training center is the union’s former office building, which was doubled in size and remodeled for a larger, modernized training facility. The offices were moved to a new building on the same campus.
Local 149, which represents more than 600 plumbers, pipefitters and HVAC technicians in East Central Illinois, currently has about 100 apprentices in various stages of a five-year paid training program.
The additional space was needed to accommodate growth in the apprenticeship program to help keep up with the demand in the industry.
“We’ve grown tremendously,” said Derek Reedy, Local 149’s training director.
The training space is divided into classrooms and hands-on work areas, with a $350,000 ventilation system installed in the welding area for added safety, according to Local 149 Business Manager Matt Kelly.
Helping fuel the demand for professionals in this field is the building of new facilities boosted by billions of dollars in federal subsidies for chip manufacturing in the U.S., according to Kelly.
Attrition is another factor, as baby boomers in the field retire, he said.
Work in Local 149’s seven-county service area is steady, and in some other areas, it’s booming, he said.
“The next decade is going to bring an unprecedented amount of work,” Kelly said.
Local 149 accepts 16-20 apprentices in each new annual cohort, and applications are being taken for the next one through Jan. 31, 2024, he said. Those applying after that date will be considered for the following year, he said.
Apprentices earn $22.66 an hour to start, plus benefits, and spend time both learning at the training center and in on-the-job training with local contractors.
Apprentices get annual raises, earning $42.80 an hour by Year 5. That gets bumped up to $50.35 an hour plus benefits after the five-year apprenticeship program ends.
The application process is competitive. The 16 newest first-year apprentices were chosen from among about 80 applicants, Kelly said.
To get to Year 2, Kelly said, a first-year apprentice needs 1,700 hours of on-the-job training and 240 hours of classroom training. Classroom time isn’t paid by the union’s apprenticeship program, but apprentices are able to collect unemployment for weeks spent at the training center, he said.
The profession tends to be male-dominated, Kelly said, but there are currently three women in various stages of training through Local 149.