Construction Advisory Committee Minutes

Nov. 30, 2023, 3-4 p.m.

Meeting Place

Workforce Careers Center, Room W2113


Nancy Sweet, Chris Edmonds


Members in Attendance

  • O'Shea Builders: Mike O'Shea, President
  • E.L. Pruitt: Courtney Cosby, Chief Operating Officer
  • Anderson Electric: Rodney Frey, Springfield Branch Manager
  • Henson-Robinson: Joe Kulek, President
  • B&B Electric: Tim Brinkman, Executive VP
  • Mid-Illinois Companies: Aaron Stotts
  • LLCC: Joel Dykstra, Candace Silas, Megan Bierbrodt, Tom Spears, Josh Collins, Barbara Messner

Members Absent

  • Synergy Electric, Matt Giacomini, President
  • A&R Mechanical contractor: Bill Walter, President




  1. Welcome and introductions
  2. Discussion of clasrooms/labs
  3. State of program
  4. Curriculum
  5. Engaging industry and creating partnerships
  6. Additional feedback


1. Welcome and introductions

Chris welcomed PAC members to the meeting and everyone introduced themselves.

2. Discussion of classrooms/labs

The PAC was directed to their handouts. Formerly, the Construction Occupations program was only offered on the Taylorville Campus. Now we have classes on our main campus. We are running out of space in the Workforce Careers Center, so the program is being moved to Sangamon Hall starting in the fall of 2025. Chris shared the blueprint plans and talked the group through the space. We will be happy to offer the space to unions for use on weekends or in the summer. The plans should be finalized in December; construction is slated to start in May 2024. The Carpenters’ Union would appreciate being able to use this type of facility on weekends.

3. State of program

Tom Spears spoke about the Highway Construction Careers Training Program which started in 2007 with DECCA funding and is currently funded by IDOT. It is a 20-week long pre-apprenticeship program. Its goal is to prepare good candidates for apprenticeship programs. The first 5 weeks of class is math in the morning (trying to get students to a 9th/10th grade level in math), and a life skills class is taught in the afternoon. Starting in week six, students are trained in OSHA 10, forklift and scissor lift operation, flagging, CPR, Intro Shop/Basic Construction (introduction to tools/equipment) and Universal Shop (projects for community non-profits). Tom communicates with trade unions and they come in and give presentations to students and will sometimes come and teach. This program has a 90% placement rate into the trades. We train 46 people per year and students are recommended to apply to three programs upon graduation. This fall we have started the MC3 pre-apprenticeship program in conjunction with area high schools. The first semester is exploring careers, the second semester begins with certification trainings, and the last eight weeks is a paid internship. We also offer a certificate program and AAS at our main Springfield campus and work in conjunction with the Laborers dual credit program at Litchfield.

4. Curriculum

Chris led the group through handouts highlighting the new curriculum that industry partners helped develop. The certificate is the first year of the program. If students want to continue, they move into the second year and complete the AAS. The new curriculum starts in the fall of ’24 and fall of ’25 for the AAS (second year). In the fall of ’23 we started two cohorts—1 day and 1 night. We have a 40-student capacity. There are four pathways through the program: 1) certificate into apprenticeship, 2) AAS into entry level position, 3) get the AAS at night if journeymen, 4) 2+2 for a BS. The PAC asked several questions. 100 level classes are offered both during the day and night. 200 level classes are offered only at night. Hopefully employers will provide an internship experience if the person is already employed with them (like journeymen). Currently we have 38 certificate students. 6 will graduate in December and 32 will graduate in May; of those, 12 will finish the AAS. We have a spring start as well, so students don’t have to wait a year to get in.

5. Engaging industry and creating partnerships

Currently we are leaning on industry for adjuncts. We are looking for more adjuncts and probably a full-time instructor as well. We also want to engage unions to participate in credit classes. We are exploring different ways to partner with the Carpenters and the Laborers. We also need input from industry on software. We will be using Drop Box, what other software are partners using? What tools should we have? Can we borrow very specific tools from you and bring them back? We need real documents and projects to use in class. Sample ones in books are not sufficient. We also need industry partners to provide internship sites and entry level positions for our graduates.

5. Additional feedback

The PAC members asked additional questions and provided more feedback. It is our goal that students will have a trade picked out by the time they are done with the certificate. Internships will be explored further. Some thought having an intern stay at one site for the entire internship would be helpful while others thought a rotation through the different trades so students would get exposed to different areas would be helpful. The key will be good internships and a good variety of experiences. Currently there is not the capacity to have 12-14 interns rotate through these companies in a semester. They would need more individual involvement. The internship would be for 8 hours a week for 16 weeks and work at home. If students know what they want to do then they would need a specific internship, not a rotation. Chris suggested having an 8-week rotation then 8 weeks at a specific site. It may also be possible to expose students to a variety of experiences through an introductory class where an industry partner comes in each week from a different type of industry. This might be done in the first 200 level class. All PAC members said they would participate in this type of class and that it should be done prior to the internship. Internships will have specific objectives.

We are working on building our reputation, value, and credibility of our program and of our students as employees so that our certificate means something. We would like to crosswalk with unions so they would take the certificate to substitute for part of their apprenticeship programs. A PAC member said that unions need to be more flexible with accepting and bringing people in. Completing hours is an issue. It would be good if completing our program would ensure guaranteed admittance into union programs.

As the meeting concluded, the PAC was encouraged to find the right person in their company to sit on the committee and/or suggest other companies or unions who would be interested in joining the PAC or a subcommittee of the PAC. We would like further feedback on internships. Chris was thanked for his work on the program and for making it very practical, and the PAC meeting was adjourned.