Rick Passarelli, business manager, Local 18007, joined Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald, Peoples Gas President John Kleczynski, and Chancellor Cheryl Hyman of City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) in January, to announce a five-year extension of the Utility Workers Military Assistance Program (UMAP), which will train an additional 250 veterans.
This seven-month classroom, internship and mentorship program has already prepared over 100 military veterans for careers in the natural gas industry upgrading and modernizing Chicago’s natural gas system.
“The City of Chicago is committed to ensuring that those who have made the sacrifice to serve our country are welcomed home with open arms,” said Mayor Emanuel as he announced UMAP’s extension. “The Utility Workers Military Assistance Program will help more veterans transition into a new career with the necessary resources and support. Expanding career opportunities and other initiatives for our veterans will help them continue their success here at home.”
“The UWUA proudly unveils the expansion of UMAP which is administered by the UWUA’s Power for America Training Trust Fund to connect workers with the highest quality training available to meet the needs of industry and the global marketplace,” said Passarelli. “The program is a national training-to-placement model that will assist those who have honorably served their country in transitioning their military occupational skills into gainful career opportunities in the gas sector.”
Veterans are great workers
The program, launched in April 2012, is facilitated through Kennedy-King College’s Dawson Technical Institute in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. Students take general education and core courses for six months, with a focus on the safe construction and operation of natural gas distribution systems. Participants who complete the training program receive a Certificate of Completion and 52 units of college credit towards their Associate degree.
“Veterans make great employees. They possess leadership skills, team-building skills, and discipline. Those traits don’t end when they take off the uniform; they transfer into the workplace and help businesses grow and succeed,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs McDonald. “I’m pleased to come to Chicago to see first-hand what collaboration between employers, unions and local government can do to provide job opportunities to the men and women who have served our nation in uniform.”
Following the completion of the classroom program, students immediately transition into a one-month, on the job, paid internship with Peoples Gas providing real-world application of the skills they have learned. More than 100 UMAP graduates are Local 18007 members already working at Peoples Gas and earning a starting wage at nearly $23 per hour.
“The program continues to deliver highly skilled candidates at a time when our business is focusing on modernizing Chicago’s natural gas infrastructure and delivering safe and reliable service to our customers,” said Peoples Gas President, John Kleczynski. “I am pleased we are able to extend this program and attract more talented veterans to join our workforce.”
The program is supported by a variety of funding sources, including Peoples Gas, UWUA Power for America Training Trust Fund, the Workforce Investment Act, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and stipend support from the Department of Veterans Affairs as needed.
“The UMAP program is just one example of City Colleges’ efforts to help our servicemen and women reach their goals and move on to further college and a career in an in-demand field,” said Hyman, chancellor, City Colleges of Chicago. “Testament to this commitment are the many supports we have put in place, including a veteran center at every City College, and the results we have seen, with the number of veterans completing a degree at City Colleges increasing 16% in the last year and student veteran enrollment up more than 5%.”
More good news from Local 18007
In addition to the extension of the UMAP program, Local 18007 reports more good news that will improve the lives of its members and strengthen the local.
- 27 veterans started a new class to become utility workers.
- By the end of February, 23 current students began internships at shop locations.
- Six Operations Apprentices have an opportunity to move up and become full time Vault Specialists.
To avoid contracting out Local 18007 work:
- 12-14 Operations Apprentices will move to the Utility Workers classification.
- 30 new Operations Apprentices are being hired immediately.