The Land Improvement Contractors of America (LICA) has established the LICA Educational Foundation for Veterans. The foundation’s mission is to train U.S. military veterans to become highly skilled heavy equipment operators, as well connecting them with employment opportunities.
LICA national CEO Jerry Biuso Sr. said in a statement that the cause is near and dear to his heart. “Years ago, when the Vietnam war was raging, I didn’t get drafted because I had a wife and two children. But a lot of my buddies went, and not all of them came back,” he said, adding, “If I’d gone, I probably wouldn’t have come back either. I didn’t know the business end of a gun.”
He says the foundation is his way of repaying veterans for their service. It will also help fill a skills gap that many are predicting. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction operator jobs are expected to grow by 10 percent in the next seven years. However, filling those jobs has been a challenge for many LICA members. The foundation will work with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to identify candidates. Training is expected to kick off in early 2022 in Illinois, with an expected class of 10 to 12 trainees. Using computer simulators, they will learn the fundamentals of bulldozers, excavators, backhoes, skid steers, motor graders, wheel loaders, dump trucks and more. They will also have four weeks of in-field training. Following that training, the foundation will work with graduates to help match them to opportunities.
LICA is currently seeking federal grants, donors and corporate sponsorships in order to create an optimal program. It is also seeking volunteers to help with fundraising events, with the first scheduled for June 2022 in the Chicago area.