by Ashlee Rezin
June 21, 2018
Alissa Roush knew she always wanted to work with her hands.
“It’s really satisfying to step back and look at something that you made and know that you got it down to a 1/64th-of-an-inch precision,” she said. “It’s exciting for me to make stuff.”
Two years into working toward a teaching degree at Truman College, Roush, 25, who was not receiving financial aid, changed course and enrolled in the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters’ Apprentice and Training Program.
Students in the union’s paid, four-year apprenticeship program can become certified and trained in a range of carpentry skills, general carpentry, drywall, floor covering, insulation, lathing, mill cabinet, millwright, pile driving, roofing, siding, or concrete forming. They receive assistance in finding employment during the apprenticeship, and attend training classes for one week every 90 days. In addition to the Elk Grove Village site, the union also has schools in Chicago, Rockford, Pekin, East Moline and Davenport, Iowa.
“I always wanted to make stuff, but I knew that art school was kind of a gamble …. This seemed more practical,” said Roush, who lives in Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood.
She is four weeks into the nine-week mill cabinet pre-apprentice training course, which focuses on the basic skills, such as safety, math and print reading, and pays a stipend of $35 a week for the first three weeks, then $90 a week for the last six weeks.
Upon completion of the nine-week course, Roush and the other students in her class will receive $300 worth of tools, initiation fees and first quarter dues to join the union — about $20 a month for Carpenters Union members — and will then start the apprenticeship program.
“The way I look at carpentry, it’s a lifestyle,” said Arthur Lewis, 25, who joined the apprenticeship program after graduating high school. “It allows you to do so many other things, like, if you wanted to go into real estate or purchase your own property, being a carpenter, knowing how to do these things that the trade teaches you, it allows you to work on your own stuff at home.”
“When somebody comes into this program, it’s not just a job, it’s a career that you’ll hopefully have for a lifetime,” said Vince Sticca, director/coordinator of the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters’ Apprentice and Training Program.
(Pictured, top: Instructor Pat Sowers working with a student at the Carpenters’ Elk Grove Village Training Center; pictured, bottom: Carpenters’ Training Director Vince Sticca (red shirt) getting hands on with stair-building students).