Introduced idea of apprentices receiving college credit
By CARL GREEN
Collinsville – Fifty years ago, Don Koleson of Iron Workers Local 392 was doing the same thing he’s doing now – teaching his trade to young apprentices.
So when this year’s group of graduates was honored at the Joint Apprenticeship Graduation Program on May 17, Koleson was honored, too, with a special award for five decades of service.
“Don has been nothing but a stellar Iron Worker,” said Jim Moore, coordinator of apprenticeship programs for Southwestern Illinois College. “Don Koleson has done more things to help the trades, all the trades in this region, as long as I’ve known him.”
The Joint Apprenticeship Program is run by Local 392 and the Southern Illinois Steel Erectors Association.
IMPORTANCE OF APPRENTICESHIPS
Koleson was initiated into the union in 1954 and became a Jourrneyman in 1956.
In the 1960s, he was called to teach in the apprentice program, and in the 1970s, he made a connection with the college.
“Back when I first went to the college, I tried to convince them that apprenticeships were valuable and worth college credit,” he said. “I had this idea that apprentice training was very important.”
So did the college, which has now offered college credit for Iron Worker apprentices for 25 years.
Today, there is a push to offer college credits on a national level.
This year’s graduates were Brent Anderson, Allen Arnold, Jr., Ryan Hooker, Cameron Kuechle, Nick Poepping, Jessica Sanders, Luke Tope and Mike Williams.
Anderson was named most improved, and Tope was named Apprentice of the Year.
Also recognized were instructors Robert E. Lee, Jack Lesko, Bob Radosevich, Dan Ellegood and Ed Stogsdill.
Local 392 Business Manager and Financial Secretary-Treasurer Dan O’Sullivan told the graduates their journey as Iron Workers was just beginning.
“You think you are done, but you’re just getting started,” he said. “You guys are the future of this local. Show up every day, work hard and work proud.”
O’Sullivan said he was a young man working at the stockyards 41 years ago when his father invited him to join the union and learn iron working.
“I’ve never looked back since,” he said. “I love iron working.”
SAFEST AND BEST
Chuck Decker, Local 392 representative to the Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust (IMPACT), told the graduates their efforts will determine the future of the union.
“We have to be the safest, best trades organization out there,” Decker said. “This apprenticeship program is a world-class effort to help our contractors be more competitive and gain market share. That makes more jobs for us.”