The Highway Construction Careers Training Program at Black Hawk College allows students to discover what career path to pursue.
“The goal is to get people into the building trades,” HCCTP program manager Paul Fessler said. “It has highway in the title, but that can include any of the building trades, so it’s a wide variety of options.”
A few HCCTP 2020 graduates shared their thoughts after completing the program:
“Give it a shot. It’s only a three-month program, and you’ll be able to figure out what you want to do.” –Barak Rowell of Moline
“It’s a good life experience.” –Marcus Teague of Davenport
“It was good. I’m ready to go out there and find a good trade.” –Maveric Hedrick of Davenport
“Right now, if somebody’s not decided to sign up for this program, I think the person is wasting time.” –Komivi Nekou of Moline
Students complete construction projects, do stick welding and operate construction equipment. They also study math, job/life skills, blueprint reading and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards.
“About half of it is getting into the field and rolling up your sleeves,” Fessler said.
The Illinois Department of Transportation created HCCTP to increase the number of minorities, women and disadvantaged persons working on IDOT projects. Black Hawk College runs the full-time, 13-week program every spring and fall at no cost to students.
There is an application process with up to 15 students selected for each class. To be considered, applicants must be seeking work in the construction trades, be 18 years or older, have a high school diploma or GED®, have a valid driver’s license and be drug-free.
The first step of applying is completing an orientation session. The next class begins March 1. Orientation sessions for it are available the last week of January and the first week of February. After the session, applicants take a Math and Reading Skills Test if they want to proceed, then the program invites potential candidates for an interview.
Site locations for program projects can include Black Hawk College, parks or nonprofits. Cement work and carpentry work are frequent, and projects can also include a variety of other trade work, including plumbing and sheet metal.
Preparing for the future
Fessler said it is easy to promote the building trades because there are opportunities available with good wages, pension plans and health insurance. HCCTP helps prepare students to apply for and obtain apprenticeships.
“Construction is a real career opportunity,” he said. “HCCTP will take you from where you are to being ready for that first day on the job.”
In addition to getting hands-on experience with several trades, students learn about many more trades. They visit apprenticeship centers and representatives from the trades visit HCCTP classes to share their firsthand experiences.
“One of the easiest and most satisfying parts of my job is when graduates come back and talk to the other classes,” he said.
Fessler keeps in touch with HCCTP graduates as they apply for apprenticeships. The application process can take awhile, so he keeps in touch for a year to help graduates find opportunities, send out reminders and keep up morale for anyone waiting.
“We’re there to back you up,” he said.
Black Hawk College HCCTP graduates have become carpenters, electricians, cement masons, laborers, equipment operators, pipefitters and plumbers.
The Highway Construction Careers Training Program is part of Black Hawk College’s Business Training Center.