A growing number of Minnesota teachers and guidance counselors are recognizing a frustration among their high school students – young people who know that college or the military isn’t right for them, but are not sure what else they could do for a career.
Julie Gloege, a special educator teacher for 15 years with Brooklyn Center High School in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area was one of them.
Seeing an opportunity to help these students, Julie Gloege changed the focus of her work taking by taking on the role of work-based learning coordinator at Brooklyn Center High School after seeing an intersectional opportunity among the high school’s students – an interest in Minnesota’s construction trades and a declining interest in pursuing a four-year college degree.
“It became obvious to me that there were students who did not have the resources or interest in going to college,” Gloege said. “Meanwhile, there’s a huge gap in Minnesota’s construction trades. The industry is very eager to attract a new generation of full-time professionals to establish long-term careers in the trades.”
The gateway to a career in the construction trades is apprenticeship, noted Gloege, where young people are paid for their work while they learn the trades. In addition, they receive a number of other benefits, including a pension and healthcare insurance.
In 2019, Gloege joined Step-Up, a Minneapolis-based program that connects Twin Cities employers with students through career internships and training, which in turn, builds careers and lead to a diverse, skilled and equitable workforce.
Building Better Futures
After Gloege saw her Brooklyn Center students get excited about hands-on building and construction trades training and real-world career exploration opportunities, she sought out more programs for students interested in learning about apprenticeship.
“I love my job because I help high school students align their skills and interests with career pathways they can follow after high school,” Gloege said. “We discuss vocational skills, take strength and skills aptitude tests, and evaluate students’ work preferences and career cluster results so that they can evaluate where their interests intersect with what they shine at.”
Gloege added that her students finish the semester by researching and presenting to their parents, faculty and peers on the top two careers that most align with their skills and interests.
“Students feel empowered by creating their own career paths and describing their futures,” Gloege said. “We even talk about where they will live after high school and create budgets to keep a reality check how much they might make and what they can afford.”
Gloege doesn’t want her youth to have sticker shock or be overwhelmed when they are made aware of costs, they didn’t foresee in life.
“It’s so common to see students being pushed by parents and staff to pursue college,” Gloege said. “Talking about debt is a conversation that needs to be had with students because it can follow you for your whole life and slow your progress toward some goals and aspirations.”
One-way Gloege is continuing to provide students glimpses of real workforce opportunities is through her professional speaker series.
“I want to show students that being smart comes in many forms and that success does not only look like becoming a doctor or a lawyer,” Gloege said. “I bring in established professionals in healthcare, construction trades, and the business world to answer questions from my students and share their journey about how they got where they are in their career.”
One such professional is her brother, Jesse, who works in Minnesota’s construction industry as a carpenter.
“My students love Jesse’s presentation,” Gloege said. “He comes fully equipped with his tools and gives many students their first experience with construction tools by showing them that being skilled at hands-on work can set them up for success.”
Youth Construction Experiences Springboard Students into Careers
“Within the Brooklyn Center school system, we do not currently offer construction courses,” Gloege said. “However, we do offer enrichment activities and connect students with construction trades summer paid internship programs to provide real work experiences.”
Gloege has taken her outreach a step further by connecting BrookLynk, a youth employment program dedicated to addressing regional talent and workforce needs with the Minnesota Trades Academy (MTA), a program that provides paid summer construction internship experience for selected Twin Cities area high school youth. A partnership pilot program begins this summer specifically designed for Twin Cities youth considering a career in construction.
“The Minnesota Trades Academy fosters an educational environment for our students to receive useful training, get paid to learn and eventually helps them make a more educated decision about what career path after high school is right for them,” Gloege said.
“We have forged and excellent relationship with BrookLynk and look forward to the results of the pilot program,” said Sarah Lechowich, Senior Director of the Construction Careers Foundation. “Many Brooklyn Center educators are seeing a renewed interest in the trades from their students and we can’t wait to provide skills training and connect them with a network of more than 30 different apprenticeships in Minnesota’s construction trades.”
Gloege is hopeful that with more construction trades offerings in Brooklyn Center’s school systems, students will find a career that is perfect for them and the skills gap currently presiding over Minnesota’s construction industry will close because of the renewed interest of ambitious young people.
“Yes, the construction trades are hard work, but so is every job,” Gloege said. “Construction professionals take pride in working with their hands and they receive some of the best benefit packages of any career field. I see so many students who would excel in this profession and I am glad I get to help them find a career that makes them excited to go to work.”