A person was suddenly fired by an employer after a decade of service. A person who had multiple jobs just to pay the bills. A student who was undecided about what next steps to take after high school. A person employed in an industry that does not meet their interests or skills. A man convicted of criminal charges as a teenager.

These are real people whose lives I changed through the Highway Construction Careers Training Program (HCCTP) at Rock Valley College.

The HCCTP includes 14 weeks and 450 hours of apprenticeship readiness training to increase the number of women and underrepresented groups entering the building trade.

Our region is made up of 17 different unions and our HCCTP participants are essentially “trying” these union options to develop the next steps in their career path and the different ways they can apply for an apprenticeship.

HCCTP is fully sponsored by the Illinois Department of Transportation, which means attendees receive free training from start to finish. There are no costs for tuition or supplies, and there are no other fees.

To ensure full engagement and participation during the 14 weeks, students will receive a grant of $ 10 per hour for expenses related to training (childcare, transportation, etc.). Hence, we expect accountability at every step.

HCCTP is designed to remove barriers to educational and entry-level experiences in order to improve an individual’s ability to successfully apply for apprenticeships.

Skill-building topics aimed at a career in road construction or construction will make participants more marketable once completed.

We’ll initially focus on math, a subject that might discourage people from working in the industry. At the HCCTP, we walk students through each chapter and update and build on any previous experience in math to highlight key components related to the field.

In addition, students earn credentials throughout their class time, including certification for safety and equipment training. We also run hands-on projects on RVC’s main campus and in our community, and work with union training centers to give students an insight into the professions straight from the experts.

While we don’t guarantee placement by attending HCCTP, the sky’s the limit for graduates who take the education seriously and continue to pursue career goals after completing the program.

Success upon graduation usually occurs because they looked for opportunities that arose while attending the class. Union representatives, training coordinators and contractors in the region work in partnership with the program on our HCCTP advisory board. These partners understand that HCCTP students bring credibility by completing our program.

Forty-one percent of our attendees and participants are women, while 46 percent of those placed in employment are men of color. Our program objectives are to increase these opportunities for underrepresented people and to do our part to further diversify the trades.

RVC HCCTP is offered in both autumn (August-November) and spring (March-June). Registration is currently open for autumn 2021. For more information on the registration process and filling out an interest form, please visit rockvalleycollege.edu/hcctp.

We are ready to change more lives.

Dawson Ingram is a mentor and transition coordinator at Rock Valley College