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Peoria Labor Union Expands Apprenticeships Under Illinois Capital Plan

The Peoria chapter of the International Union of Operating Engineers is expanding its apprenticeship program as the state rolls out its $45 billion capital plan.

Gov. JB Pritzker met with IUOE Local 649 members Thursday in Mapleton to discuss the new training opportunities.

“A year or two ago, they were only able to train about six apprentices, because there just wasn’t the work out there for people,” Pritzker said. “Normally, I gather, there are about 15 people that get trained.”

The Democrat said new job opportunities repairing and maintaining infrastructure have allowed that number to grow.

"Now, they're training 25 at a time. And that's an enormous benefit. Again, the more people we're training — the more people that can join the union, get the skills necessary for these jobs — the more people that are going to earn a great middle class income."

Pritzker said Illinois' unemployment rate is at a record low, thanks in part to projects funded by thecapital plan.

He also said capital investments could attract new transportation, distribution and logistics companies to central Illinois.

"If you think about it, being in the center of the state here in Peoria — and with all the talent that's here — that means that this is a very attractive place for many of those companies to come, to move to."

Local projects outlined in the capital plan include expansion of Route 24 from two to four lanes, rehabilitation of the Murray Baker Bridge, and improvements to the Illinois Central College campus.

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Dana Vollmer is a reporter with WGLT. Dana previously covered the state Capitol for NPR Illinois and Peoria for WCBU.