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Summer camp organized by SIBA gives Explorer Scouts a taste of the trades

A group of Southern Illinois Explorer Scouts recently learned first-hand about apprenticeship programs and the benefits available to working in the skilled trades as a critical part of the region’s construction industry.

The five-day “summer camp” for high school students, held from Aug. 1 through 5, was developed by the Southern Illinois Builders Association in collaboration with the Explorer Scouts and the apprenticeship training staffs of several skilled trades unions including the ironworkers, boilermakers, operating engineers, sheet metal workers, brick/stone masons and carpenters, according to Donna Richter, SIBA’s CEO.

The students “trained” with experienced journeymen and apprenticeship instructors at a different apprenticeship program site each day of the week. Hands-on activities included constructing birdhouses, welding iron, threading pipe, handling heavy equipment, cutting and shaping sheet metal, and more.

“Many young people don’t know about the different skilled trades, so they don’t know about the benefits and the challenges of some of today’s most important and best-paying jobs,” Richter said. “And beyond the pay and benefits, there is a tremendous satisfaction when a person can look at a new structure or at the renovation of a historic structure and say ‘I helped build that,’” Richter added.

Schools represented by the students include East Alton—Wood River High, Collinsville High, Father McGivney High, Freeburg High, Granite City High, Hillsboro High, O’Fallon Township High and Triad High.

In addition to the Explorer Scouts program, the Southern Illinois Builders Association stages regular Construction Career Expos where high school students are bussed to a central location for briefings and demonstrations by journeymen of the various skilled trades.

The Southern Illinois Builders Association also offers detailed information about the various apprenticeship programs online at


Photos courtesy Southern Illinois Builders Association

First photo, on left: Iron Workers Local 392 Apprenticeship Trainers Don Ellegood, far left, and David Koleson, second from left, introduce Freeburg high school students Ivan Furtak and Caiden Anderson to a digital training aid for welding, one of a number of skills taught in the Iron Workers apprenticeship. High school students from throughout the area explored several of the construction trades this past week in a program organized by Donna Richter, foreground, CEO of the Southern Illinois Builders Association.

Second photo, on right: Collinsville High student Trey Patterson explores a digital training aid for welding, with Iron Workers Apprenticeship Program Trainer Don Ellegood. Patterson participated in a week-long “summer camp” this past week organized by the Southern Illinois Builders Association to help inform young men and women of the skilled trades needed in construction.

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