Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Governor Touts Apprentice Training

Governor Touts Apprentice Training
By Ben Antonius | Daily Republic | March 10, 2008

FAIRFIELD - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger paid Fairfield a visit Monday to promote a state effort to recruit construction apprentices for public works projects.

Schwarzenegger visited the Carpenters Training Center for Northern California on Chadbourne Road, a facility that trains apprentice-level carpenters. The event coincided with the launch of the 'I Built It!' program, which aims to get more young people into apprenticeships.

The governor was joined by state Labor Secretary Victoria Bradshaw and John Duncan, director of the state Department of Industrial Relations. Before the press conference, Schwarzenegger toured the facility, visiting a classroom in which apprentices were getting a refresher in construction-related mathematics.

'We want to reach out and find as many apprentices as possible,' Schwarzenegger told the class. 'I think we're looking for 200,000, so tell your friends about it.'

Under California law, public works projects require one apprentice for every five journeymen on the job. California has more than 65,000 apprentices, and the need is expected to grow in coming years.

Thousands of craftsmen are expected to retire over the next several years, creating a shortage of workers in skilled trades. On top of that, California is poised to embark on $42 billion in infrastructure improvements, ranging from roads to schools and jails.

'This is a really, really great time for people to get really great jobs,' Schwarzenegger said.

The carpentry center offers classes and gives students the opportunity to hone their building skills. A typical apprenticeship takes four years, and once each quarter an apprentice will come to the center for a week of classes and shop work.

Fairfield resident Geoffrey Eccles has been an apprentice for about 10 months and had only praise for the program. Eccles said he had been working at a local burger restaurant when he decided to pursue a different career.

'I love this,' he said. 'I'll be doing this for the rest of my life.'

Throughout the morning visit, Schwarzenegger tried to reinforce the concept behind the 'I Built It!' program, that workers would carry the accomplishment of having built major parts of California's infrastructure. The governor at one point likened the effort to President Dwight Eisenhower's 1956 push to build the Interstate Highway System.

'It's a historic thing,' Schwarzenegger said. 'You'll be able to say to the kids, 'I was a part of rebuilding California.''

Reach Ben Antonius at 427-6977 or bantonius@dailyrepublic.net.

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