COLLINSVILLE, Ill. – The city of Collinsville recognized four city employees during Tuesday’s city council meeting. The workers earned apprenticeship certificates from the U.S. Department of Labor for their efforts. State Rep. Katie Stuart was also on hand to recognize the recipients.

Students with disabilities in special education are allowed to spend part of their day learning job skills under the mentorship of Collinsville city employees. The program involves the city of Collinsville, Collinsville High School, and the Madison County Employment and Training Department.

Tanner Durham and Brad Hopke earned their apprenticeship certificates working with the city’s Parks and Open Spaces Department. Myah McDaniel and Dylan Rick achieved their certificates working with the Gateway Convention Center staff.

“I’m very proud of him,” said Mindy Rick, Dylan’s mother. “He is a very hard worker, and he’s dedicated a lot of time to this.”

“I’m super, super proud of her accomplishments,” said Stacy McDaniel, Myah’s mother.

We first reported on the program in January, when the city honored the first employee to complete the program.

Since then, officials say other cities have expressed interest in copying the program. Tony Fuhrmann, the director of Madison County Employment and Training, predicts the program will go nationwide someday.

“In the age of diversity, equity, and inclusion, these are young people that haven’t been included,” Fuhrmann said.

He says the program gives participants a certificate that can help them gain employment anywhere in the country.

“I’m going to try and get a job in welding,” Hopke said.

“It really feels good to watch them work independently,” said Jared Chestnut, Collinsville Parks and Open Spaces superintendent. “That’s one of our main goals, to see if they can work independently, and once they get there, we know we’re in good shape.”

Laura Kott, Myah McDaniel’s mentor, was also recognized Tuesday. She is the housekeeping operations supervisor for the Gateway Convention Center and is proud to be a mentor.

“It’s really fulfilling that you’re doing something good,” Kott said.

Jamie Lane, the Gateway Convention Center general manager, also attended Tuesday’s council meeting and is proud to see how much growth each student showed.

“We’re just really proud of them because they’ve done a great job and they really have grown a lot,” she said.

There are also benefits beyond helping the students. Payton Drury, the human resources director for the city of Collinsville, said the program has lifted the spirits of city employees, knowing it is having a positive effect.

“We’ve seen a lot of improvements in their morale,” said Drury.

Several of the apprentices have decided to remain employees of the city of Collinsville following the completion of their apprenticeship.