IUOE stationary engineers acquire their skills through a formal apprenticeship program and through on-the-job training, which is supplemented by courses offered by IUOE and its local unions, or at trade or technical schools. Due to the increasing complexity of the equipment with which they work, many stationary engineers take related college courses. Still, it takes many years of formal training and work experience to become a skilled stationary engineer.
“As CEO of the Chicago Public Schools I appreciate having employee groups that provide their services with little intervention from my administrative team. This allows us to keep our main focus on Education in our system of over 400,000 students and 40,000 staff. IUOE Local 143-143B is one such group. I am proud to have the officers and members of this Local as part of my team in leading the third largest school system in the nation.” Arne Duncan, Former Chief Executive Officer, Chicago Public Schools
Apprenticeship is an excellent way to learn the craft and to earn income while learning. The system is designed to give someone who knows little or nothing about the trade the knowledge to become a journey-level stationary engineer. The average length of a stationary engineer apprenticeship is four years. During this period, apprentices learn their craft by working with skilled stationary engineers at an actual job site, and attending related classroom instruction in such technical subjects as boiler operation and maintenance, air conditioning and refrigeration, HVAC instrumentation and controls, HVAC advanced testing and balancing, safety, electricity, energy conservation, and indoor air quality. This training is critical to preparing apprentices to qualify for stationary engineer licenses, which are required by most states.
Starting pay for an apprentice is about 40% to 60% of the journey-level stationary engineer rate. Pay increases are scheduled at designated times during the progression from apprentice to journey level.
Journey-level stationary engineers are encouraged to continue their education in order to broaden their skills, keep abreast of changes in the industry and increase their employability.
Many IUOE stationary local unions have apprentice and journey-level training available through IUOE local union/employer training trust funds, commonly referred to as Joint Apprenticeship Committee (JAC) training funds.
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Success Story — Ernest Brown
In 1983, Ernest was working for a national armor car company in Chicago. When his employer announced they were cutting wages of employees by 50 percent, Ernest found his and his family’s future suddenly at risk. He canvassed businesses in the area looking for a better, and more secure job. Eventually he found one as a custodial worker at Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center. Quickly recognized as a hard worker and keen to advance in his career, stationary engineers within the center suggested that Ernest join Local 399. According to Ernest, it was some of the best advice he would receive in his life. Ernest joined the Local and became an Engineer Trainee. He worked hard on the job and at night took advantage of the training classes provided by his union. Eventually he was able to obtain his license to operate high-pressure boilers and certification for generator operation, refrigerant handling and OSHA awareness. In 2006, Ernest was promoted to Chief Engineer of McCormick Place and now supervises all engineer activities in the largest convention center in the United States. Ernest credits Local 399 for much of the success he enjoys today. “It is the best union in the world,” he says. “The leadership in our union is immediately accessible to you and they really care about you and your family”. Ernest is proud of his union and the opportunities IUOE has brought to him and his family. Now that his three children are grown, Ernest and his wife, Pearly, enjoy attending the social events sponsored by the union like the annual dinner dance and family picnic.