Head of the class

A union facility offers extensive hands-on training

From the outside, the Chicagoland Roofers Joint Apprenticeship and Training Facility in Indian Head Park, Ill., seems like a typical office building. As you walk through the front door, you enter an office reception area that looks like most others.

But appearances can be deceiving. After walking through a few more doors, you enter a world of roofing. You are taken in by enormous simulated roofing shops with roof system mock-ups, mock-ups for installing roof drains, areas for heat-welding and much more.

The training facility, which opened in May 2000, houses one of the best hands-on roofing apprenticeship and training programs in the United States. A part of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers Local 11, the facility is used for apprentice and journeyman training.

"The union had been saying for years it wanted to develop a facility," says Martin Headtke, apprentice coordinator at the training facility. "We had been running classes in VFW and American Legion halls, hotel meeting rooms and restaurants—not exactly good places for hands-on training, especially when we couldn't even bring in torches, kettles and other equipment. We had property to develop, but the cost of building a brand-new building was more extravagant than we thought. Union trustees found an old lumber yard with two buildings and bought it."