Editor’s Note: LaborPress is proud to present the 2022 Outstanding Apprentice of the Year Awards for Long Island and New York City on Thursday, June 16, hosted by Teamsters Local 282 in Lake Success, NY. Today, we begin a continuing series leading up to this year’s gala event introducing each of those fascinating and inspiring award-winners to the wider labor movement.
New York, NY – The International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) consists of more than 400,000 members across 123 local unions throughout the United States and Canada. It is a diversified trade union that primarily represents operating engineers who work as heavy equipment operators, mechanics and surveyors in the construction industry, along with stationary engineers, who work in operations and maintenance in building and industrial complexes, among other members.
LaborPress spoke to Erin DeVera, a 35-year-old Outstanding Apprentice Awardee and IUOE Local 30 member to find out about her experience learning the trade. After three years learning on the job, the Yonkers product is ready for her June graduation.
LP: What have you found most rewarding about the IUOE apprentice program?
ED: Just the amount of opportunities that they give you, whether to further you in your career or just learning-wise. You know, there’s so much to learn in this field. We have excellent instructors and leadership that it is just very endless. They even send you to the International Training Center in Texas if you want to keep on advancing your learning.
LP: What skills are taught in the program?
ED: Skills that I’ve learned are very mechanical. I came from a completely different field from the [Building] Trades. I worked in healthcare for twelve years. I had some knowledge of tools and everything, but it was very broad. Getting the theory of things from books [then moving] to hands-on [training] was very useful. [I learned things like] changing parts of a motor, welding — something I wouldn’t necessarily do just off the bat.
LP: How did you learn about the program?
ED: While working in the hospital. I knew we had the Local 30 crew in the hospital, and you know, I could see that they were very essential to the hospital. Then I looked online to see when they would be doing the application process. I just decided to try to get in.
LP: What is it like for you being in a union?
ED: It’s been a big eye-opener for me. Even starting within the apprenticeship program, I knew there were some other people starting very young. I’ve even had thoughts like, ‘Oh, I wish I was doing this a couple years ago.’ [But] to me, it’s been such a game-changer.