PEORIA — Several union trade groups will open their apprenticeship schools to the public Friday to showcase training programs to cap a week of presentations detailing opportunities available from local employers.

The West Central Illinois Building and Construction Trades Council hosted educators throughout the week at labor halls and training programs with partners in the construction industry to highlight alternative paths to post-secondary education — and employment — for their students.

Several of those locations will open again from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday for the general public to learn more about the training regimens required to become local union laborers, filling jobs as varied as plumbers and painters to masons and heavy equipment operators.

"Every time people see our training programs, they are amazed by what is offered," said Clint Drury, executive director of the council. "The training in the end is what differentiates us from the competition — our folks have to be better trained and more productive, or we're out of business."

Union laborers dedicate percentages of their hourly pay to fund the training programs, and apprentices earn at reduced rates while working until they reach journeyman status.

Jimmy Dillon, associate director of the council, said that amounts to a free education for those looking to hone their skills in and outside of classrooms.

"All of these apprenticeships are free," Dillon said. "You might have to pay for some tools or books, but they are all free."

Drury added: "Everybody needs to have a post-secondary education, and when our apprentices graduate in three to five years, they are debt free."

Those graduates also gain the credentials necessary to work on job sites all over the country, and in some instances internationally.

Apprenticeship open houses running from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday include:

Carpenters JATC, 904 Brenkman Drive, Pekin; IBEW Local 34, 4313 S. Entec Drive, Bartonville; Iron Workers Local 112, 3003 N. Main St., East Peoria; Plasterers & Cement Masons, 5601 N. Main St., East Peoria; Plumbers Local 63, 116 Harvey Court, East Peoria; Sheet Metal Workers Local 1, 840 W. Birchwood Road, Morton; and Steamfitters Local 353, 6403 W. Development Drive, Peoria.

Matt Buedel can be reached at 686-3154 or mbuedel@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @JournoBuedel.