PSC students learn trade skills hands-on at Park Forest house

A new joint venture between Prairie State College, the Village of Park Forest and South Suburban College is making it possible for young adults to gain real-world experience in a variety of construction trades. 
  Students and instructor from
  South Suburban College work
  on the project house in Park
(Provided photo)

Known as the South Suburban Trades Initiative (SSTI), the program extends learning from the classroom to the jobsite, an abandoned house owned by Park Forest.

“After decades of pushing four-year college degrees, it’s time to think about also encouraging young adults to set achievable, near-term goals that do not require a four-year investment of time and money,” said Hildy Kingma, Park Forest’s director of economic development and planning.

“One viable, short-duration alternative for young adults involves completion of coursework associated with a variety of career and technical programs offered by PSC and SSC,” said David Tracy, Park Forest’s general contractor who is managing the rehab project.  “Another opportunity involves pursuing skilled-trades union apprentice programs offered locally by all of the trade groups — plumbing, painting, carpentry, electrical and many others."

“SSTI is a workforce development program and Park Forest is providing the jobsite — an abandoned home now owned by the village,” Kingma said. “The home will be fully rehabbed and then sold with the funds used to continue SSTI work next year.”

“The carpentry work is being done by students from the SSC Building Construction Technology program and our furnace is being installed by students from the PSC HVAC certificate program,” said Tracy. “We are also pleased to note that two union apprentice programs are adding their skill sets associated with plumbing and painting. These union apprentice programs are a vital component in the near-term and long-term process of building a future skilled-trades workforce.”


Students who receive their certificate from either SSC or PSC will receive assistance in finding a job, or the graduates could apply for entry into a union apprenticeship program.

“Regardless of the path chosen, it’s important to note that there is a real shortage of men and women qualified to work in skilled trades such as carpentry, HVAC, plumbing and electricity,” Tracy said. “A big part of the workforce problem is negative perceptions about skilled trades. Young adults often see vocational jobs as a grueling line of work offering no career advancement or financial and job security."

The reality is that jobs in the trades are high paying and can be supported by generous benefits. According to the Georgetown Center, the United States has 30 million jobs that do not require a bachelor’s degree and pay an average of $55,000 per year.

Partial funding is being provided by the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) through their Abandoned Residential Property Municipality Relief Program.  

“The village of Park Forest is matching the IHDA grant,” noted Kingma.

For more information on the HVAC certificate program at PSC, contact Chad Vlietstra at 708-709-2941 or [email protected].  The SSC contact is Eugene Damiani, 708-257-0773 or [email protected].

The Chicago area Painting and Drywall Finishers apprentice program is accepting applications at the organization's website. Information about the plumbers apprentice program is at Local 130's website.  They will also have a special 4-week sign-up drive beginning Jan. 22, 2019.

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