The Ironworkers Training Facility located at 7740 Industrial Drive will be growing to double its size by August and will provide for twice as many students at the center.

The addition, being built by McShane Construction will improve on the existing school, which has been in Forest Park for at least 15 years, by enclosing its outdoor, hands-on training facility, said Al Bass, apprentice coordinator for the school.

“It will allow better use [of the facility] during the winter season and at night,” he said.

At present, the school serves 176 students but is capable of serving up to 310 students, at any given time, and is the headquarters for the Ironworkers Union Local One apprenticeship program.

The school “offers comprehensive training in structural steel erection, reinforcing steel and post-tension installation, haz-mat, precast erection, pre-engineered buildings and lead abatement,” writes McShane Construction.

The addition, Bass said, is a needed improvement and is not necessarily motivated by an increasing attendance.

“We need the facility if we have 50 students or 500 students,” Bass said. “We [currently] have classrooms in other buildings, four in the existing building and two in an auxiliary building. With the new addition there will be three more.”

The new structure will consist of classroom space, a student lounge and a training center that will house a three-ton bridge crane used for lifting heavy steel beams.

The existing facility will also be improved upon, as McShane will be adding a Burn Room, for cutting steel.

Bass has been working in the field for 36 years now and said he began working as an ironworker because he liked the outdoors.

The former Special Forces soldier said he found the job challenging and said he has a great deal of respect for his students.

“I tell every kid that comes in here that they are a cross between John Wayne and Wonder Woman,” he said jokingly. “It takes an aggressive person to be an ironworker because of the demands of the job. There are no easy jobs”but this is hard, physically demanding labor.”

Bass’ office is a tribute to the work he has dedicated his life to, with a panoramic picture of the Chicago skyline that contains the words “We Built This City” and a fantastic collection of model cranes from across the world.

The curriculum at the school is not a joking matter, however, as it is an intense 802-classroom-hour long training course, where students learn about OSHA regulations, welding, blueprints, hazardous materials handling, first aid and rigging.

Not to mention the structural installation and erection.

In total, students spend three years in the 6,000 hour apprenticeship, under Bass’ guidance.

The new classrooms, Bass said, will allow him to move the outsourced classroom space back into the facility and, most importantly, provide for a safe and productive hands-on training experience for the students.

At hand for the groundbreaking were Mayor Anthony Calderone and representatives of the Ironworkers Union Local One Apprenticeship School, trustees and instructors as well as members of McShane Construction.