PEKIN (25 NEWS) - A half a million dollar grant will help some Pekin Community High School students get closer to apprenticeship programs when they graduate. The money SkillsUSA received will also go toward diversifying trade apprenticeships across Central Illinois.

“We’re really excited for the opportunity,” said Executive Director for SkillsUSA Illinois, Eric Hill.

SkillsUSA will be receiving a $500,000 grant from the state, to support pre-apprenticeship programs and increase diversity in construction trades. Of that, Pekin will be getting about $150,000.

“It’s going to get me into the trades a lot faster. I could explain to you building a house from the bottom to the roof pretty much,” said Adyn Houston, a junior at Pekin.

Houston is enrolled in the building trades courses at Pekin. His class is currently building a house from the ground up, over a two year course.

“It’s so much better than being in school,” said Houston.

Houston said the class allows him to learn hands-on and build leadership skills. It’s one of the many reasons SkillsUSA chose the school.

“Pekin high school is going to be a great start with that, but we have some other programs in the area we’re looking after as well,” said Hill.

Hill said money will also to toward other schools in the area to recruit students without construction backgrounds, with a focus on women and minorities.

“We just want to give them the skillset to make them as successful as possible,” said Hill.

Some of the money will go toward student’s certifications. If they complete certain ones, SkillsUSA will give them a $1,500 stipend.

“It’s our way of trying to stimulate or motivate the students to completing that certification because those certifications are what employers are going to be looking for,” said Hill.

Building trades teacher, Greg Ries, said this will help students start in more advanced positions when they graduate.

“You can walk right out of high school here, and go get a job somewhere,” said Ries.

Hill said the grant is renewable and expandable, so he hopes they can continue it.

Copyright 2022 WEEK. All rights reserved.