LOGAN – Ohio Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted and State Representative Brian Stewart R-Ashville had the opportunity on Thursday to see how a local apprenticeship program prepares men and women for jobs in the operation of heavy equipment, when they visited the Ohio Operating Engineers Apprenticeship Training Site Logan. Their visit was made to mark National Apprenticeship Week. In addition to being lieutenant governor, Husted is director of the governor’s office for workforce transformation.
The over 225-acre learning facility, located on Strawn Road, is a training ground operated by Local 18 of the International Union of Operating Engineers. The training provided there offers an option for those looking for an alternative to the traditional higher education path. Apprenticeship is a four-year program, in which a student must receive 1,000 hours of on-the-job training each year, along with the necessary course hours, in order to move on to the next year. The program works locally with Hocking College and Columbus State Community College to earn college credit from its participants for their learning.
Donald R. Black, executive director of the union’s training fund in Ohio, told Husted and Stewart he was “extremely passionate” about the apprenticeship program.
“It’s the best thing in the world, the apprenticeship program, because a person can have a career,” Black said. “Someone can’t take that away from them. No matter what happens, I don’t think you’re going to build a highway in China, Taiwan, or Vietnam and ship it here and just put it in place. An operator that benefits from a program like this can go anywhere in Ohio and work, or anywhere in the United States, and we have our partners working all over the world to install pipelines. and things like that. The opportunity is therefore simply incredible.
Black noted that the skills apprentices learn are not limited to the use of equipment such as bulldozers, excavators, forklifts and cranes. As the field of operations engineers advances technologically, the learning program keeps pace, he suggested; for example, the program offers training in the use of drones.
“We are teaching a 40 hour course just to get the license to fly the drone,” he explained. “Then we teach you how to fly it. Then we teach you how to take all the software, the data you collect, render it through the computer, and then print maps. You can take that drone and say how much dirt you move each day… All the big contractors use drones today, but they hire outside companies to do it. I want this to be an operator job.
The program also awards more than $ 1 million in scholarships each year; remarkably, these are paid 100% by union members.
“We get 85 cents per hour from each member, every hour of work,” Black explained. “So a typical year would be 13 to 14 million hours of work, and we get 85 cents for each of them. Now that’s something we’re very proud of… We’re privately funded; we don’t take any subsidy. I don’t want county money, I don’t want state money, I don’t want federal money. We’re going to run our program and we’re going to pay for our program and 99% of it, we pay cash. We don’t believe in borrowing money.
Husted emphasized the importance of apprentices getting college credit while they are on the program. “It’s awesome,” he said. “Because a lot of times, you know, there’s this belief that, well, if I go in that direction with an apprenticeship and trades, it means I’m not going to college. This is not true; I can do both. “
Black suggested the state could help make the program even more useful, clearing the way for him to provide high school training as well. To do this, he said, “we need to be recognized by the Ministry of Education so that we can help (high schools) with their juniors or seniors.”
He explained that “apprenticeship programs in general are (supervised) by the Ministry of Labor. But we have to partner with the Ministry of Education… I wish all (our instructors) had teaching degrees. “
The demand for operating engineers is high; Black noted that the program currently receives many more applicants than it can accommodate. “We probably have between 1,000 and 2,000 people a year applying to our program, and this year we took barely 100,” he said. He predicted that this demand could increase even more in response to the anticipated increase in federal spending on infrastructure improvements.
Husted added in this context that he believes Ohio is already at the forefront of states in financing infrastructure based on its own state-level legislation.
“A few years ago, Ohio passed an infrastructure bill,” he said. “So we already have one of the strongest infrastructure spending programs in the country. (Federal spending) will be added to that. And we’ll wait and see a little more what the rules are, but in particular we know, that probably a lot of bridge operations will benefit from the infrastructure plan. Ohio was therefore a little ahead of the game. i think we are manner ahead of the game. “
Husted and Stewart’s visit included a tour of some facilities and an opportunity for officials to speak with instructors and apprentices.
Husted later noted that while apprenticeship programs have been around for a very long time, this approach to vocational training is assuming renewed importance.
“You see a lot more learning-type models, even among the big banks,” he observed. “We’re visiting here today because it’s one of them. This is nothing new … they’ve been doing this for a long time. And you see with the operations engineers a successful model that has been built over a long period of time… It’s a very mature and successful model, and that’s why I’m highlighting this one on this stop.