A sheet metal union in Rock Island, Ill., added a new, 23,000-square-foot facility to its school to ease classroom overcrowding.

Sheet Metal Workers Local 91 officials say the new facility will include a 14,000-square-foot training facility and a 9,000-square-foot area that will house the union hall, and health and welfare department offices.

The training center will include two large classrooms, an indoor/outdoor service lab, computer lab, welding laboratory and a large shop space, which includes a 500-square-foot training house that will be used for HVAC and architectural program instruction.

“We can take advantage of the things that were in the curriculum that we couldn’t teach before. We can now provide more classes,” said Jason Gerdes, the union’s instructor. “Sometimes you teach them something in an hour or two when you know they’d get a better experience if they had a half day of it.”

Carl Odendahl, Local 91 training director, said the new facility will provide students with more space and increased training opportunities.

“We were too overcrowded,” he said. “Now, we’re going to do a lot more with the journeymen than we used to as well as more with the residential and industrial areas. We didn’t have a big presence in residential, so hopefully, it will help us. The new building will definitely help us increase our market share.”

 The new facility also includes new equipment and technology, including an iron worker with hydraulics, power slip roll for higher gauge material, a plasma cutting table and a 40-ton press brake for industrial work.