Iron Workers Local 392 Apprenticeship Trainers Don Ellegood, far left, and David Koleson, second from left, introduce Freeburg, Illinois, high school students Ivan Furtak and Caiden Anderson to a digital or virtual training aid for welding, one of a number of skills taught in the Iron Workers apprenticeship. High school students explored several of the construction trades this week in a program organized by Donna Richter, foreground, of the Southern Illinois Builders Association.

Summer Camp Gives Explorer Scouts a Taste of Skilled Trade Unions’ Training for Construction

Collinsville High student Trey Patterson explores a virtual training aid for welding, with Iron Workers Apprenticeship Program Trainer Don Ellegood. Patterson participated in a week-long “summer camp” organized by the Southern Illinois Builders Association to help inform young men and women of the skilled trades needed in construction.

A group of Southern Illinois Explorer Scouts recently learned first-hand about apprenticeship programs and benefits available working in the skilled trades as a critical part of the region’s construction industry.

The five-day “summer camp” for high school women and men was developed by the Southern Illinois Builders Association in collaboration with the Explorer Scouts and the apprenticeship training staffs of several skilled trades unions including the iron workers, boilermakers, operating engineers, sheet metal workers, brick/stone masons and carpenters, according to Donna Richter, the Builders Association Chief Executive Officer.

The students “trained” with experienced journeymen and apprenticeship instructors on-site at a different apprenticeship training program each day of the week.

“Many young people don’t know about the various and different skilled trades, so they don’t know about the benefits and the challenges of some of today’s most important and best paying jobs,” Richter said. “And beyond the pay and benefits, there is a tremendous satisfaction when a person can look at a new structure or at the renovation of a historic structure and say “I helped build that,” Richter added.

Schools represented by the students include East Alton–Wood River High, Collinsville High, Father McGivney High, Freeburg High, Granite City High, Hillsboro High, O’Fallon Township High and Triad High.

High school graduates without construction experience can qualify for paid apprenticeship training leading to journeyman status and increased pay. Some local contractors often hire inexperienced trainees for short-term or seasonal work to give individuals an opportunity to try some basic construction work.

In addition to the Explorer Scouts program, the Southern Illinois Builders Association stages regular Construction Career Expos where high school students are bused to a central location for briefings and demonstrations by experienced journeymen of the various skilled trades.

The Southern Illinois Builders Association also offers detailed information about the various apprenticeship programs on-line at

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