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IL Plumbers Local, Building Trades Council Fight for School District Upgrades, Training Opportunities

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Building Trades unions in Champaign, Illinois are lending their assistance to a local referendum campaign which would provide funding to reinvigorate career and technical training in the county’s largest school district.  Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 149 has purchased yard signs in support of the Unit 4 referendum and allowed supporters to hold their meetings in its hall in Savoy.  The East Central Illinois Buildings and Trades Council (ECIBTC) has also helped the cause by buying radio time for pro-Unit 4 referendum ads.  

Matt Langendorf, President of the ECIBTC and Business Manager of Local 149, told the News-Gazette, “I feel like this is a turning point for this community. We’re either going to fill these jobs and provide a skilled workforce to the employers in this area or we’re not.”

The Unit 4 referendum would provide $149 million to update the Champaign school district’s outdated industrial education facilities.  The local trade unions have worked side-by-side with the school district in recent years to rebuild career programs in construction, manufacturing, and agriculture.  The passage of the Unit 4 referendum would help the school district prepare its students for careers in the trades, where an increase in jobs is expected in the upcoming decade.  Langendorf continued:

“We’ve been really frustrated that our largest school district doesn’t prepare people for a career with us,” he said, noting that it takes five years and $55,000 to train an apprentice.

College is expensive and not available to all students, he said, and “a lot of kids just don’t learn by being lectured. They learn with their eyes and their hands, by doing.”

The need for new facilities is exacerbated by the sudden growth of the district’s Education to Careers and Professions Program.  Following program coordinator Marc Changnon’s push to re-establish the program the number of students grew from 285 in 2011 to over 800 current participants.  He notes that the program is “bursting at the seams.”

A consultant’s report estimates that the project would create 372 direct construction jobs with a $39 million payroll, and 298 indirect jobs with a $23 million payroll.

For more information on the referendum check out the Champaign Unit 4 School District’s FAQ page.


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