September 20, 2012

WED assisting union employee training programs

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A team from Southern Illinois University Carbondale is working with the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA) to ensure its members have the best employee training programs available.

Elizabeth Freeburg and Thomas Hovatter of the University's Department of Workforce Education and Development (WED) received a $150,745 grant from LIUNA to review, revise and develop curriculum in a variety of training areas. Their work includes hospital/heath care environmental services, facility operations and maintenance, housekeeping, food service workforce and instructor training. Freeburg, a professor and department chair, and Hovatter, the project coordinator, are directing the effort that involves about a dozen team members from the University and the surrounding area.

"LIUNA is acquainted with SIU and knows we do quality work," Freeburg said.  "This provides a great opportunity for our graduate students and faculty to work on a real-world project that benefits the population our people serve. It is applied research. We are helping other people and learning as we do so."

The project team is identifying various job tasks in each of the training areas and the skills someone must have to perform well. They will review existing training curriculum and determine any needed modifications, develop new instructional materials in both English and Spanish, and work with a videographer to create training films. There will also be pilot testing and evaluation of the training modules.

Project financing is from the LIUNA Training and Education Fund -- a non-profit labor-management trust fund located in Pomfret Center, Conn. The fund supports LIUNA training needs. LIUNA members have a variety of careers in the construction, environmental and service industries. The job training covers a variety of facets including proper work techniques, safety procedures and regulations affecting the industry. The project also involves developing training programs for supervisors and the trainers.

The SIU Carbondale group is currently working on LIUNA environmental services training, which includes linen services, environmental services, food services, building operations and maintenance, commissary (retail) services and waste management and recycling. While the focus will be on the job tasks and skills required for employment in health care facilities, there will also be information about employment in other related environmental services fields.

The project is very detailed and involved. For instance, someone who is providing cleaning services in a health care facility must meet very stringent guidelines for wiping surfaces to assure that no illness-causing viruses or bacteria remain.

"It is a very demanding level of housekeeping," Freeburg said.

Creating, modifying and evaluating the training programs will take until mid-2013 to finish.

"We are helping LIUNA improve their products and services and enabling them to then keep their training materials updated," Freeburg said.