HIRE360 is a nonprofit organization that prepares underrepresented populations for apprenticeships. “The opportunities are incredible,” says HIRE360 Executive Director Jay Rowell. The organization partners with local developers, contractors and labor unions to support job seekers with career counseling, case management, skills training, and grants for tools or transportation to job sites.
Developer Related Midwest, a founding partner of HIRE360, recently expanded its partnership with the organization. Related Midwest’s nonprofit arm will join HIRE360 to provide residents at Parkway Gardens, in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood, with free training, apprenticeships and job placement opportunities in the real estate development and construction sector.
A competitive process
While a pre-apprenticeship program is good preparation, individuals can usually apply directly for a trade apprenticeship.
The Electrical Contractors Association of Chicago and IBEW Local 134, offer two apprenticeship programs open to anyone. Applicants must be age 18 and have a high school degree or GED with a grade of “C” or better in math. The electrical construction apprenticeship lasts five years; the electrical communications apprenticeship is four years long.
Applicants who are accepted attend class five days a week for 11 weeks at the electricians training center, the IBEW/NECA Technical Institute in Alsip. The state-of-the-art 120,000-square-foot institute includes classrooms and technical labs and sits on 29 acres. The institute also features a Renewable Energy Training Field with solar, wind and battery storage components for apprentices to learn about new technology.
Apprentices are paid after the first 11 weeks when they are assigned to a job with a contractor. Apprentices return to the classroom for nine weeks during the second and third years of training. Upon completion apprentices may stay with their assigned contractor or, if the works run out there, the union finds them a new job.
About 1,700 applications are received annually for 300-400 openings. “The apprentice selection process is competitive, but fair,” says Gene Kent, director of training at the IBEW-NECA Technical Institute. He adds, “It’s a great career.”