Every day, women are making an impact on Minnesota’s construction industry — on job sites and from behind the desk at construction companies, building and construction trade unions, and even nonprofits, such as the Construction Career Foundation.

Pat Wagner Executive Director of Construction Careers Foundation

This year, Finance & Commerce, a business publication serving the Minnesota business community, recognizes these construction leaders in its second annual Top Women in Construction awards. Women are recognized in six categories for their innovative approaches to industry development, community involvement, and business integrity.

Construction Careers Foundation (CCF) Executive Director, Pat Wagner received a 2021 Top Women in Construction award in the “Outstanding Service to the Profession” category, which features women who facilitate the success of others through education programs, association work, advocacy, board leadership and more. Wagner’s fellow nominees included RJM Construction’s Director of Safety Stacy Arnold, Contract Administrator for Peterson Cos., Janelle Miller, Mortenson Community Affairs Manager, Shanae Phillips, and International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49’s Director of Workforce & Community Development, Jenny Winkelaar.

“This award represents the hard work of our team and the great efforts and support of our Construction Careers Foundation Board of Directors, staff, consultants, strategic partners and Minnesota’s trade unions,” Wagner said. “Every day we work together to build relationships that increase the diversity of entrants into the construction trades and foster long-term construction careers.”

The Construction Careers Foundation (CCF) provides year-round educational and experiential learning opportunities for Minnesota youth and young adults as they consider, navigate, and prepare for a career in the construction industry.

The Construction Careers Foundation is one of the few organizations in Minnesota in which multiple construction trades, and their related trade associations, partner with schools, teachers, students, parents, labor, and business to attract young people into the construction trades. The shared vision of these organizations is to motivate underrepresented youth (in particular, women and people of color) to graduate from high school, give them the chance to explore the various opportunities in the construction trades and facilitate their entrance into careers in their chosen trade.

To Build Interest in Construction, Introduce Youth to the Trades

During her tenure, Wagner has created new programs for students in middle and high school, pushed for diversity and inclusion in the trades, and elevated the visibility of women and minorities and their critical role in the future of Minnesota’s construction industry. Her passion is to promote equal access to jobs that can sustain individuals, their family members, and their communities.

“Our state-wide program, Construction Career Pathways, is designed to increase awareness about careers in Minnesota’s construction trades among middle and high school students with the intent of encouraging young people to apply for apprenticeships in the construction trades after they graduate from high school,” Wagner said. “Our programs empower students to say, ‘I can’ to construction and gives them the confidence and skills they need to start a construction apprenticeship after graduation.”

A few of Construction Careers Foundation’s programs and initiatives in 2021 include:

● Learn2Build program, a hands-on STEM construction summer experience for students in grades 4-9.

● Minnesota Trades Academy (MTA), a skill building, 8-week paid summer internship for high school students to explore careers in construction and meet with trade unions.

● Construction Trades app – Minnesota’s first free construction exploration app. The app’s user interface lets youth personalize their experience and explore construction careers that fit their interests. (Available through the Apple and Google Play apps stores)

● Minnesota Educator Newsletter – More than 4,000 Minnesota educators use this newsletter to stay connected with the most up-to-date construction content such as feature stories, YouTube videos, union apprenticeship deadlines and more.

“Pat Wagner recognizes that future generations of Minnesota’s skilled construction workers are attending Minnesota’s middle and high schools right now,” said Mary Stuart, Associate Director for the Construction Careers Foundation. “Her passion for promoting equal access to jobs that can sustain individuals, their family members, and their communities is evident in the nature of her work and the ways in which she leads.”
In spite of these dramatically different circumstances, the Construction Careers Foundation team came together and found ways to reorganize program delivery mechanisms to meet the needs of stakeholders (students, teachers, schools, industry and labor representatives along with community leaders). Through increased collaboration and community-led decision-making, Wagner and team were able to make a successful transition to a fully virtual program environment, and actually experienced increased interaction among participants.

Prior to and throughout the pandemic, Wagner built and upheld strategic partnerships with the Minneapolis and Saint Paul Building and Construction Trades Councils, Apprenticeship Coordinators Association of Minnesota, Construct Tomorrow and participating school districts. As a Twin Cities nonprofit, Wagner also oversees a volunteer board of directors composed of construction-business owners, management firms, trade associations and labor leadership.