What child doesn't grow up dreaming of owning a beautiful home, or driving a nice car? Those dreams can become realities - for a few by sheer luck; but for most it will take determination and hard work. It is, after all, pursuit of the American dream that built this great country of ours. Used to be a person could open a business, hang a sign and with a solid purpose, be on the way to achieving his or her dreams. Today however, opportunities aren't as plentiful -- with fewer jobs and more people to fill them than ever before. Without some type of training and education, the American dream can quickly become the impossible dream. ABC can provide that training and education - here's how it all began. In the late 1970s merit shop contractors realized on-the-job-training (OJT) alone was not sufficient to meet the rigorous demands of an expanding and changing industry. While prior to that time there was formal training in the merit shop sector, organized labor was the primary sector delivering comprehensive classroom and OJT. Merit shop contractors relied, for the most part, on field mentoring. But both the need for greater skill and the increasing shortage of trained personnel for the construction industry pushed merit shop contractors to take strong action. That pressure created Wheels of Learning, a broad based, modular system of training. The Wheels concept was to offer a series of individual skill segments which could be used singularly, in groups, or as a full year's curriculum. This was a new concept for the industry and it was quickly accepted, modified and is under continual review. The Wheels concept, so-called because the descriptive material shows the modules arranged in the shape of a wheel, was accepted at every level. The U.S. Department of Labor embraced the program; ultimately, it became the foundation of the nationwide training programs now offered by ABC chapters in nearly every state. In the early '90s ABC gave the entire program to the National Center for Construction Education and Research, based at a major university in Florida. Now called Contrens, this system is the basis for hundreds of classes offered by ABC chapters and by vocational programs around the country. NCCER, sponsored by several organizations, including ABC, the Associated General Contractors, a major sprinkler fitters association, and others, is responsible for editing and improving the program. Most of the review and update work is done by craftspeople. Each year, ABC graduates thousands of men and women from these programs. Some graduates take the knowledge, use it in the field, and then move into management and frequently, construction company ownership. The opportunities are limited only by the industry and desire of the graduates. Construction is one of the few industries in which the opportunity to grow is practically unlimited. Like most other endeavors, it takes hard work, serious dedication and a solid commitment to persevere. Many successful construction companies started as small operations under the guidance of a skilled craftsperson who wanted to do more than just work in the field. Some of ABC's finest merit shop company owners started as apprentices, and most have fulfilled their dreams. Today's construction professional must be educated, trained and possess the skills, ideas, vision and flexibility to meet the ever-changing needs of this rewarding industry. ABC's training programs help prepare individuals to become those skilled craftworkers, construction managers and industry leaders - and live his or her American dream.