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Application Deadline: Program Helps High School Students Become Heavy Equipment Operators

Spring semester enrollment for a program that offers students in Minnesota a pathway into the International Union of Operating Engineers registered apprenticeship program open until January 29th.

Enrollment is currently open until January 29th for the spring semester in the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 49 and Minnesota Virtual Academy (MNVA) high school pathway program. This unique industry partnership in a k12 setting offers high school students the ability to complete online courses that expose students to career opportunities in the heavy equipment industry.

The program is part of the Destinations Career Academy model MNVA offers. Courses are available to any high school student grades 9 – 12 enrolled in a Minnesota school district and will count toward high school elective classes, articulated college credit, and will make a student better prepared for the IUOE Local 49 Apprenticeship Program.

In its first semester, more than 50 students from across Minnesota enrolled and completed the courses.

Listen to high school junior, Cole Snidarich’s experience with the program. 

“The program partnership between the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 49 and Minnesota Virtual Academy (MNVA) provides all Minnesota high school with a great opportunity to learn if they would be interested in a career in the construction field and guide them along the first steps of preparing for an apprenticeship,” said Sarah Lechowich, senior director with the Construction Careers Foundation (constructioncareers.org).

High school students can enroll in these online courses from any school district in the state of Minnesota. They can be taken anywhere at any time at no cost to the student. The program includes four semester courses that give an overview of skills needed to successfully prepare students for entrance into the IUOE Local 49 Registered Apprenticeship Program. These courses include construction exploration, basic grade and construction math, construction equipment fundamentals, and basic maintenance of mobile equipment. A fifth semester module offering a CDL Prep course is expected to be available next Fall.

Rich Krohn, Instructor of the Operating Engineers Pathway Program:
“The Operating Engineers Career Pathway class has been a really fun class to teach. I have introduced my students to a career running the equipment that has built America. Fourteen weeks into the class and I still get comments from my students saying what a great experience it has been. I encourage all high school students to sign up for the class and see what a career as an operating engineer has to offer.”

In addition to the online classes, students participating in this apprenticeship readiness pathway will have opportunities to visit the IUOE Local 49 Training Center located in Hinkley, MN where they will be able to engage in hands-on activities on heavy equipment simulators. This will help determine if the students’ aptitudes and abilities line up with their interest in pursuing a career in the vast field of heavy equipment operators and mechanics.

The IUOE registered apprenticeship program requires applicants to be 18 year of age or older, have a high school diploma or equivalent, possess a valid driver’s license and reliable transportation, be able to pass an entry level assessment test as well as drug test. First year apprentice wage rates range from $24-$34/hour plus benefits. The IUOE/MNVA K12 partnership program offers students and their families a great opportunity to explore this career path and see if it is a fit. Making an informed choice is an important first step.

“It is critical that students in high school learn about our industry early to see that this industry has many career pathways to different areas in the construction field. Taking these courses gives students a great foundation for being a heavy equipment operator as well as other facets of our industry. Through this program I hope students, parents, counselors, and teachers see that the opportunities in our industry are just tremendous.”

About IUOE Local 49
The International Union of Operating Local 49 is the largest construction union in Minnesota and represents 14,000 members in many different industries related to infrastructure and construction throughout Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. For more information visit www.local49.org.

Educators and students should resource ConstructionCareers.org to view video interviews of real Minnesota construction workers and learn about 30 different careers in construction. Check out the Careers page to read about each careers’ wages, apprenticeship offerings, key skills and benefits.