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District 15 Apprentice Program: Opportunity and Success for Young Machinists

District 15 Member and Apprentice Ruddy Lucero at work in

Penske's state-of-the-art diesel repair shop in South Plainfield

LYNDHURST, NJ - At 21 years of age, Ruddy Lucero is approaching his fourth anniversary as a mechanic for Penske in their South Plainfield diesel repair shop. As a TECH 4, he earns nearly $25 an hour with great benefits including an excellent pension. Four years ago, Ruddy was graduating high school and made a fateful decision. As an honors student at Passaic County Technical Institute, he had several options including scholarship offers from some private schools. For Ruddy, the decision was easy. "I chose the District 15 apprenticeship program because it offered free training and real pay from day one. Three and a half years later, I have a rewarding job and the program has helped me advance at a great company like Penske. It was an excellent decision!"

For years, many District 15 auto and diesel truck repair shops had expressed frustration at their inability to find skilled mechanics. Even though they offer continuous training due to the extremely dynamic nature of modern automotive and diesel technology, many shops could not find young people with the skills and motivation to take on these challenging yet rewarding positions.

Where others saw a problem, District 15 Directing Business Representative Jim Conigliaro saw an opportunity. ADBR Juan Negron had worked with an existing apprenticeship program in New Jersey that was losing it's funding. After meeting with the existing director of that apprenticeship, District 15 began to build a comprehensive program that would not only train new mechanics but would allow these young apprentices to make a real living while learning. "We knew the opportunities were there, but the key was reaching out to our employers to secure good jobs for these apprentices while they were in the program," Conigliaro explained. "We brought in Mike Flynn from IAM CREST, our training and safety affiliate, to work with existing director Ira Stern and it really took off from there." Four years later, it's safe to say that the program is an unqualified success. Additional credit goes to the District 15 staff who work hard to place each of the students with good jobs, our supportive employer partners and an annual funding grant from the New Jersey Department of Labor.

Project Director Ira Stern runs the program out of an office in the District 15 New Jersey headquarters in Lyndhurst. If you are a current District 15 member with a son, daughter or other family member interested in this excellent program please visit the apprenticeship website at or reach out to Ira directly at (973) 798-8001.

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