$500,000 in federal money to go to pre-apprenticeship electrical program for south suburban high school students

Sen. Dick Durbin said he sees the program helping to build a network of vehicle charging stations in Chicago and beyond.

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Sen. Dick Durbin on Friday announced $500,000 in funding for a program that will offer pre-apprenticeships to high school students in the south suburbs who are interested in a career in the electrical trades.

Sen. Dick Durbin on Friday announced $500,000 in funding for a program that will offer pre-apprenticeships to high school students in the south suburbs who are interested in a career in the electrical trades.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

A program that creates a pathway for high school students in the south suburbs to learn the electrical trade is getting $500,000 in federal funding.

The program, run by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134, provides a pre-apprenticeship and a fast lane into the industry, said Gene Kent, who heads up IBEW’s trade school.

The training program, in its first year, serves students at Thornton Township High School District 205 and Thornton Fractional School District 215.

Sen. Dick Durbin helped secure the federal funding and held a news conference Friday outside the union’s Bronzeville headquarters.

“It’s a great undertaking,” Durbin said. “You know, a lot of kids in high school never give a second thought about what they’re going to do for a living. They’re just having fun thinking about classes and social life. We’d like to focus them a little bit on their future, and the future needs of our city, county and state when it comes to the electrification of vehicles,” he said.

Durbin also announced $2 million in federal funding for the CTA to upgrade its 103rd Street bus garage to accommodate electric buses and charging infrastructure.

A new CTA electric bus provided a backdrop to the news conference. 

Durbin envisioned high school participants of the program eventually installing the charging stations in Chicago and beyond that will help combat a warming climate.

The CTA’s goal is to transition to an all-electric bus fleet by 2040.

“But we want this to happen much sooner,” Durbin said.

The CTA has 11 electric buses in service and 14 more are expected to hit the streets this year.

Its first two electric buses were put into service in 2014.

The e-buses are operating on the No. 66 Chicago, connecting the Austin neighborhood to the Near West Side and Navy Pier.

The CTA aims to prioritize e-bus deployment on routes serving South and West side neighborhoods that have been historically overburdened by air quality issues.

Among its first targets in the next few years will be routes serving the 95th Red Line hub.

To date, CTA has secured more than $130 million in grant funding to support the effort.

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