Talking with Mike Borjas, the director of the Illinois Teamsters Joint Council No. 25 Employers Apprenticeship and Training Fund in Joliet, Illinois, you’d think that he was drawing up a lesson plan for training military personnel. But, his goal is providing the best training for Teamsters working in the construction trades as he can. Fortunately for the union, he is accomplishing this every day.
The Joliet facility trains more than 1000 to 2000 members per year in a variety of necessary skills. This facility can train on Forklift Certification, Illinois Department of Transportation Flagger Certification, 8-hour Hazwoper Refresher, 10-hour OSHA Certification, Pipeline/Stringer Certification, HMIT DOT Certification and more. (For a complete list of courses, please refer to the training fund’s website: http://www.illinoisteamsterstraining.org The facility is large and includes several garages and paved areas. The garages hold equipment such as Dump Trucks, Lowboys, Forklift, Stringer Trailer, Driving Simulator and even a school bus –used for Construction and Pipeline training exercises.
“A trained and certified Teamster member is an employed member,” Borjas said during a recent tour. “What we aim for here is to provide comprehensive training so that our members can maintain the Teamster reputation for supplying the best-trained, skilled workers for any type of construction project. All this is possible because to our professional staff and our strong and progressive minded Board of Trustees.”
Many members interested in the construction trades have some prior military experience, and this can be augmented by the training at the Joliet facility. “We have a 200-hour CDL training course for someone with experience and an apprentice course with takes four years,” said Borjas. “We added the extra 40 hours in the 200-hour training course in order to supplement the Illinois requirement with Defensive Driving and other topics.” Borjas explained that the decision to add Defensive Driving to the CDL course was driven by the fact that the biggest accident problem in the military is not ied’s or other explosives, its off-duty collisions. “What I tell our students is that you have to remember you are in the same position as a Teamster when you are off duty. And, when you are off duty you are just as liable.”
Recently the National Safety Council, a non-profit group which focuses on areas where the greatest number of preventable injuries and deaths occur, including workplace safety, teen driving, cell phone use while driving and safety in homes and communities awarded the training center, their “Trendsetter“ award for the Professional Truck Driver Course as part of the Fleet Defensive Driver Safety Program Award category.
Borjas, as director of the training facility, accepted the award at the annual National Safety Council Congress and Expo held in Atlanta. “I was honored to accept the NSC award for our Defensive Driver course. This course is unique to our training facility as we first developed the model. Not only does it cover CDL training, but we added defensive driving so that our members would have the most comprehensive driver training in the state – and by virtue of the training, also potentially be the safest drivers on the road.”
The Illinois Training Center is just one of the training facilities affiliated with the Teamsters that service members across the country which rely on federally funded grant programs administered through the Safety and Health Department. Los Angeles, Boston, Anchorage, Pasco (Wash.), Northern California, Newburgh (N.Y.), Tennessee, South Carolina, Las Vegas and Miami are home to construction training facilities at local unions that offer a broad range of courses.
“We have made training and certification a priority in our union because we believe that a well-trained Teamster member is the most productive and safest worker on any construction site,” said Marion (Bubba) Davis, Director of the Teamsters Building Material and Construction Trade Division. “With our union’s call to repair and maintain infrastructure we predict that a variety of construction projects (roads, bridges, etc.) will be coming on-line very soon and we want our members to be prepared. And, with training at facilities such as Illinois’ in Joliet, they will.”