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Apprenticeships Open Doors of Opportunity; Create Long-term Careers for Minnesota Youth

College is not the only path to success for Minnesota’s graduating high school seniors.

Minnesota’s construction industry offers high-paying jobs with great benefits representing more than 30 different career paths. And it all starts with an apprenticeship for those who are new to the construction industry.

Unlike four-year college students who pay for tuition and books, construction apprentices are paid while they learn on the job.

Apprentices receive hands-on training and mentorship from construction professionals. Students can start an apprenticeship as early as age 18. (Photo Credit: Emily Sweeney)

Most construction apprenticeships throughout the state of Minnesota take between three and five years to complete, after which a young person becomes a journeyperson. Some professions, such as electrical workers and plumbers will require that a person take an exam at the completion of their apprenticeship to earn a license to practice their profession.

Construction Careers Foundation, a Twin Cities nonprofit organization, is leading a state-wide effort to raise awareness among students, parents and educators about the benefits of a career in the building and construction trades.

“For a long time, there has been a stigma about construction work as a last resort for people who don’t want to go to college or serve in the military,” said Sarah Lechowich, senior director for the Construction Careers Foundation. “In reality, Minnesota’s construction industry has evolved into a technology-driven business where highly skilled technicians are needed to build Minnesota’s buildings and infrastructure. The industry is growing increasingly diverse, and trades professionals receive great benefits such as healthcare insurance and a pension.”

Apprenticeship is a Viable Career Pathway

The Construction Careers Foundation is working with the State of Minnesota, school districts around the state, Minnesota’s top construction companies, and the state’s building and construction trades unions to help high school students learn more about apprenticeships and the long-term career possibilities in construction.

One such resource is the Constructioncareers.org website, where Minnesota youth can learn about the benefits of apprenticeship and understand how the application process differs for a variety of trades.

“Apprenticeship programs pave the way for career-building, and life-long learning by giving members the option to earn stackable credentials,” Lechowich said. “The foundation of the apprenticeship model means young people can continually build their skills, so they always have the opportunity to obtain higher levels of employment in an occupation or industry.”

As a result, Minnesota trade union apprenticeships establish a continual pipeline of qualified workers for local employers while supporting Minnesota’s economy and infrastructure.

Construction careers are in-demand, plus no college debt

Young apprentices quickly learn their skills have practical applications in everyday life. From algebra to measuring, skills practiced in construction trades apprenticeships can be used for a lifetime. (Photo Credit: Emily Sweeney)

Not only is there a great need for the next-generation workforce in the construction trades, jobs are widely available and are often high-paying. What’s more, construction apprenticeships mean young people won’t rack up student debt. Apprentices receive on-the-job training where they learn from a more experienced worker (a journeyperson) and have classroom training at union training centers to complete their knowledge.

“From the day you start your apprenticeship, Minnesota’s construction unions are already investing in you,” Lechowich said. “In an apprenticeship, you get paid to learn a skill that you can immediately put to use to make a respectable living.”

Since 2014, enrollment in registered apprenticeship programs in Minnesota has grown by 27%, which makes it the state’s “third-largest private post-secondary educational institution,” according to a study by the Midwest Economic Policy Institute.

“Minnesota youth who choose to pursue an apprenticeship are still receiving a high-quality education,” Lechowich said. “A construction apprenticeship puts young people on a path to a lifelong career, where they can be successful, skilled and independent.”