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4 Education Paths to Start Your Rewarding Career in Minnesota’s Construction Industry

When it comes to students’ different learning styles and working preferences, careers in Minnesota’s construction industry boast a variety of accredited, post-secondary learning opportunities that help students assess their interests and pursue the line of education that best aligns with their career goals and learning style.

“A career in construction offers numerous areas for advancement. For example, you could join an apprenticeship and learn hands-on skills to become a sought-after trades professional in a field like cement masonry or carpentry, or you can take on college courses to manage a team or become a surveyor,” said Mary Stuart, Associate Director of the Construction Careers Foundation, a Twin Cities nonprofit that introduces young people to careers in construction through educational opportunities.

The Construction Career Foundation’s priority audience is reaching students who are making the big decisions about what’s next for them after high school.

“We educate students, guardians, and counselors that a young person’s choice to pursue a career in construction has many learning and skill building pathways,” Stuart said. “Once he/she becomes a journey worker or professional tradesperson, that is not the end of the road – there are more educational opportunities offered to build skills and grow a career.”

Here are four post-secondary pathways to a career in construction:

Apply For Union Apprenticeship

There are two types of apprenticeship programs: Registered apprenticeship programs (RAPs), or non-registered programs, also known as industry-recognized apprenticeship programs (IRAPs).

RAPs have been validated either federally by the U.S. Department of Labor or locally by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), and meet specific standards set by those agencies. IRAPs are not registered with a government agency and are not tied to the government requirements.

“Minnesota has more than 11,000 registered apprentices, over 10,000 are in union construction apprenticeship programs,” according to Jennifer Hathaway, communications manager for the Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council. “The union construction industry has 54 privately funded registered apprenticeship programs around the state, serving as the primary training pipeline for people entering the construction industry.”

Registered apprentices receive wages for their on-the-job work, which increase incrementally as they progress through their apprenticeship training. In other words, they get paid to learn the skills they will use in their careers.

“Apprentices get paid to learn the skills they need for their construction career through in-classroom learning and on-the-job training,” said Mary Stuart. “Due to the high demand for craft professionals many unions have scholarships available to decrease or eliminate tuition costs and they will often directly hire apprentices to full-time positions upon completion of the program.”

In general, apprenticeship programs can last up to four years and during this time apprentices also earn additional industry recognized credentials and certifications to represent their skills and knowledge progression. For some professions, passing a state-administered exam is required at the end of the apprenticeship to obtain a license to work in a trade.

Enroll for An Associate Degree

Local community colleges also offer degree programs relevant to the construction industry, like an Associate of Applied Science (AAS). For a fraction of the cost of university tuition, students get experience in classes that cover topics like hand tools, masonry and power tools.

Often specialized trade classes are also available such as wiring, plumbing, and blueprint reading. The average associate degree takes two years to complete, so it’s a fast-track way to start a career in construction.

Get an Undergraduate Degree

Many universities offer different construction-based degrees. After reviewing the educational requirements of each major such as course subjects and program lengths, students can pursue a major that matches his/her professional interests.

Considering pairing an interest in construction with a 4-year degree, consider:

  • Civil engineering
  • Management
  • Residential construction technology

Seek out Certifications

Certifications can also satisfy education and training requirements for the construction industry. Every time you earn a certification, it’s proof that you are actively practicing and updating your skills and are working toward comprehensive industry knowledge. Certifications can be provided through apprenticeship opportunities, university, a construction employer or sought out online.

Some examples of skills you can earn certifications for are:

Blueprint reading

Inspecting a site

Reviewing building codes

Checking electrical wiring

“We encourage students to look for certifications that tailor to their career interests, or are related to on-the-job safety training requirements,” Stuart said. “Certifications can always be updated to reflect what career a student pursues, and the process prepares them for their ongoing professional journey.”

Get Your Education in Construction

There are many ways to start a career in construction. Education requirements can be fulfilled through degrees, certifications or signing up for real-life industry experience through an apprenticeship. Share Construction Careers Foundation’s website ConstructionCareers.org with students and their guardians to help them understand what careers in the trades offer and find the best professional fit for their future career.