“Experience has shown that worker growth and development are stunted when programs are mandated from above, but flourish in an atmosphere of voluntary participation in self-designed and self-directed training and education.”
-- USW/Company Contract Language
The Institute for Career Development, headquartered in Merrillville, Indiana, is a unique workforce training program for eligible members of the United Steelworkers. The Institute, or ICD, was created in 1989 as a result of contract negotiations between the USW and major steel companies. Today, ICD has expanded to include rubber companies as well.
ICD is a joint initiative, with labor and management working together to provide educational services to Steelworkers.
What kind of training does the Institute offer?
We have a wide range of classes to meet any interest or skill level. Instruction ranges from basic skills, such as GED preparation, to graduate-level college courses. Steelworkers can also take personal enhancement courses, like photography and foreign languages, and a variety of classes that teach technical skills, such as plumbing, electrical wiring or small engine repair. The most popular course offerings are computer-related, and many Steelworkers earn certifications through the program.
The emphasis is on teaching “portable” skills Steelworkers can use to enhance their existing careers or take with them beyond the steel mills, rubber plants and iron mines should they change jobs. Many Steelworkers have used the program to prepare for pre-apprenticeship tests.
Approximately 80 percent of the courses are “customized,” meaning that instructors are hired to design classes specifically for Steelworkers. Most of these classes are taught in learning centers on or near the plants and are offered twice a day – before and after shift changes – to accommodate workers’ schedules. Access to other courses is made available through a tuition assistance program which provides up to $1,800 annually to each worker for tuition, books and fees at accredited institutions.
How is the program funded?
This educational benefit was originally negotiated by the USW in contracts with participating companies in 1989. Most recently, BF Goodrich joined in 2004, Bridgestone Firestone in 2005 and Goodyear joined in 2006. The companies set aside 10 cents for each hour worked by a Steelworker to fund the program.
Each site has a Local Joint Committee, or LJC, that oversees spending and programming. The LJC is comprised of both union and company representatives. Budgets at the sites vary depending on the size of the workforce at each plant.
What makes the program unique?
Everything is geared toward making learning comfortable and accessible for Steelworkers. Our learning centers are conveniently located, usually on or near work sites or in a union hall. Classes are offered before and after shift changes to accommodate workers’ schedules.
Each site offers classes under the direction of the LJC. The LJC decides what courses to offer by documenting workers’ needs and interests. They do this through surveys or by sending program Learning Advocates to talk to workers on the shop floor. Each Career Development Program is uniquely tailored for the Steelworkers at that location. It’s a “bottom-up” philosophy that enables Steelworkers to drive the program.
Another important aspect of the program is learning confidentiality. Only the Steelworker and the Career Development staff know whether the Steelworker is there to brush up on basic skills or complete a college-level course. Computer-aided instruction supplements traditional classroom settings, small group sessions and one-on-one tutoring.
How can I get more information about ICD?
Feel free to call coordinator Jeff Hewitt at (205) 393-1766 | (205) 343-9937 or come to the Learning Center located at 4520 21st Street, Suite B. Tuscaloosa, Alabama 35401.