Contractor Work and Union Apprenticeship: A Step-by-Step Guide

Looking to join a union and get work through a contractor at the same time? Take these simple steps to get started in the right direction.

When applying for an apprenticeship through a union, you may be confronted with a step you might not have been expecting — getting hired by a contractor.

Some Minnesota construction unions require that a contractor hire you prior to beginning your apprenticeship with the trade union. For folks who are entirely new to industry, this can feel like a hard barrier to tackle.

If this feels like a big, confusing step – have no fear. There are a number of support systems in place to help get you on the right track. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how to make this happen:

1 – Ask for help.

Entering a new career can be confusing, but you don’t have to do it alone. The Construction Careers Foundation’s Trades Navigator, Charie Gill, is here to assist and direct youth exploring careers in Minnesota’s construction building trades and help them plan and prepare for apprenticeships. Contact Charie Gill at to get your questions answered today.

Are you an educator? The Trades Navigator also offers classroom trades presentations to help students become acquainted with a career path in construction. If this sounds like a great fit for any of your students, contact Gill to schedule a trade presentation for your classroom today.

2 – Know where to start.

While some unions provide apprentices with a list of contractors after they apply to the union, others require that you are hired by a contractor prior to submitting an application to the union. For example, the application process for the limited energy technicians statewide energy JATC only begins after a contractor officially hires a candidate.

To figure out which path is required of your chosen trade, contact the Trades Navigator or visit the careers page on

3 – Get in touch with your union.

Union leaders and training coordinators want to see you succeed. If you have questions about finding work through a contractor while applying for an apprenticeship, it’s always best to get in touch with the training coordinator at the union you want to join.

Find the right contact information under your chosen trade on the careers page on, or ask CCF’s Trades Navigator to help you make the introduction.

4 – Pick a contractor and connect the dots.

Look through the list of contractors provided by your union contact, the Trades Navigator, or your union’s website and start making the connection. The Trades Navigator is here to help you connect with a contractor that’s right for you, but, if you’d like to do some research on your own, look through CCF’s careers page for information on which trades require you to be hired by a contractor and for a list of Minnesota contractors to choose from.

5 – Put your best foot forward.

 Once you start the job, make a great impression by showing up early, lending a helping hand where necessary, and asking questions when they arise. Everyone has to start somewhere, and the people who succeed in the trades are the ones who are willing to learn as they go and ask for help when they need it.

Construction Careers Foundation: Build Your Future

For more resources catered to young people seeking to join a trade, visit




I.B.E.W. Local 110 Shows MTA Interns What it Takes to be an Electrician

Minnesota Trades Academy (MTA) interns walk a day-in-the-life of an electrician at I.B.E.W. Local 110 in St. Paul, Minnesota.

 St. Paul, Minnesota – To think, when it comes to electricity, it all started with a wire, a kite, and lightning. Today, the world’s dependence on electric energy is immense. Between lighting, data operations, electric vehicles, and entertainment applications, electricity is quite literally the current that powers our day-to-day lives.

A career with this much impact is a great fit for young people who want a rewarding career. It’s important for young adults considering a career in the construction trades to gain exposure to the countless opportunities available in the electrical workforce.

For some young adults, entering adulthood and choosing a career path is an intimidating concept. Finding your “thing,” while also harboring the desire to be properly rewarded for hard work can place stress on one’s decision-making process.

Photo: Minnesota Trades Academy interns work on a project at IBEW 110.

Photo: Minnesota Trades Academy interns work on a project at IBEW 110.

To help young people make informed decisions, the Minnesota Trades Academy (MTA) offers a paid summer construction internship experience for selected high school youth. MTA is a program funded and conducted by the Construction Careers Foundation, a Minnesota-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to “increase the diversity of entrants into the construction trades and foster long-term construction careers.”

In the summer of 2023, groups of MTA interns gained hands-on experience in the electrical trades at the I.B.E.W. Local 110, where they walked in the shoes of an electrician for a day. Tim Garcia, Training Director, and Nicholas Judge, Assistant Training Director at I.B.E.W. 110, guided the interns through a day of lectures and hands-on activities, exposing them to the applications and conditions within the electrical trades.

“The fact that MTA allows interns to get into a location and experience the different trades is amazing. When I was in high school, there was nothing like MTA. There’s a lot of misconceptions about electrical work out there, so if you get to experience what an electrician does and see their daily experiences, you might have a totally different mindset of what you think an electrician does versus what we actually do,” said Garcia.

Getting down to the nitty, gritty basics

MTA interns kick-started their day at I.B.E.W. 110 with an orientation, during which Garcia laid down some ground rules and presented some basic information for interns to keep in mind throughout the day. Garcia offered insight into the apprenticeship program with I.B.E.W. 110. Every trade has their own apprenticeship requirements and expectations, so relaying this information helps interns differentiate the next steps they can take walking into their future careers.

Then, the interns got an introduction to what an electrician really does on a daily basis. As it turns out…it depends. There are a variety of sectors available in the electrical industry, such as industrial, commercial, and green energy work. (Visit CCF’s careers page for more information about a career in the electrical trades.)

Garcia, who has 38 years of electrician work under his belt, and Judge, whose been in the field for 20 years, offered insight and gave advice based on their personal experience in the industry.

Photo: Tim Garcia instructs MTA interns at IBEW 110.

Photo: Shawn Weyer, JATC Instructor, instructs MTA interns at IBEW 110.

“When I stand in front of the interns, I share my journey with them. I’ve worked in eight different trades within the electrical industry. I tell them there’s a lot of branches to electrical work and they can steer their career towards whatever they’re passionate about,” said Judge, who started out in residential, then commercial, heavy industrial, medium voltage terminations and programmable logic controllers. He then became an estimator, an instructor, and is now an assistant trainer – proving the possibilities are truly endless.

In addition to sharing their work experiences, Garcia and Judge listed other important factors to being in the electrical trades. Safety is heavily stressed, as well as harboring organizational skills, leadership abilities, responsibility, and time management.

“The biggest thing I would say – and this goes for any of the trades that you might get involved with – is to be on time. Show up when you’re supposed to be there, maybe even a little bit early. Show interest in what you’re doing, ask questions, and have a good attitude. There’s not a person in the world that won’t take you under their wing and show you what needs to be done to make you successful if you take that kind of approach,” said Garcia.

“Technically, anything that requires power is our work. So, the variety is second to none. It leaves a lot of room for explanation for us, and we just want to make sure that the interns are aware of what they’re signing up for, not only the conditions on the job,” said Garcia.

The conditions are more physical than some might expect. Electricians often work on ceilings of varying heights. The job requires preparing oneself to work in different conditions: indoors and outdoors, in both hot and cold temperatures.

Practice and Theory All at Once

Having a solid background in mathematics is essential to a career as an electrician. After Garcia’s career overview, Judge stepped in to cover some basic algebra with the interns, teaching them graphing and right-angle trigonometry. After the theoretical overview, Judge demonstrated those same math skills, this time using a conduit bender – a tool that electricians use to strategically bend tubes that protect electrical wiring.

Minnesota Trades Academy interns at IBEW 110.

Minnesota Trades Academy interns at IBEW 110.

“We took everyone into the shop and they started bending up conduit for themselves right then and there. The interns took that math and applied it to the conduit bender, which is something electricians do all the time,” said Judge. “We see diverse reactions amongst the interns when they come to our facility. Once we get them on their feet and get them into the shop area, that’s where we see a lot of engagement because they take what they learn in the lectures and apply it to a real-world situation.”

Exposure and hands-on experience are what really tie everything together. A classroom setting sometimes limits students who prefer hands-on work, so breaking out of the lectures and getting to work on a real-world example is crucial to figuring out what works best for everyone.

Educators: Get Involved Today

 Nothing is more important than exposure. Getting high school youth involved in the construction trades earlier on can help them make more mindful and impactful decisions going into their future careers. MTA is a great way to get youth thinking about their careers and working towards their futures.

“I would suggest that more teachings should gear towards trades mathematics, and just trades exploration in general. If there’s ever a need for a speaker or group to come into class, every trade is always available for spreading awareness and sharing more information,” said Judge.

“School counselors and parents themselves are finally seeing that the trades aren’t a second choice, but that it’s a great career path. It’s one that allows you to not have any kind of student debt. It’s a great path to a very respectful and rewarding career,” said Garcia.

“I’ve been working with MTA in this position for seven years now. The interns always have great participation and they’re great students. CCF is a great organization with good leadership, and I think they’re doing a lot of really important work,” said Garcia.

Educators seeking guidance in informing their students about a career in construction, or hoping to pass along the opportunity to join the Minnesota Trades Academy, can visit the Educator Resources page on


 For more resources regarding a career in construction, visit

For more stories similar to this one, view the Construction Careers Foundation Blog page.

CCF Celebrates National Apprenticeship Week 2023

National Apprenticeship Week is a week-long, nation-wide initiative to celebrate the great opportunities available through apprenticeship.

Throughout the United States, including Minnesota, from November 13-19, 2023, construction unions, trainers, mentors, educators, government officials and more, came together to shine a light during National Apprenticeship Week (NAW) on the abundance of career opportunities available to young people who enter an apprenticeship through the construction trades.

According to a recent press release from the U.S. Department of Labor, National Apprenticeship Week is, “a nationwide celebration where industry, labor, equity, workforce, education, and government leaders host events to showcase the successes and value of Registered Apprenticeship for re-building our economy, advancing racial and gender equity, and supporting underserved communities.”

Mahaila Houle, 26,  apprentice, IUOE Local 49

Marcus McGinley, 19, apprentice, Local 512

Kinsey Neal, 24, apprentice, Iron Workers Local 512






A construction trades registered apprenticeship provides a rigorous path for young people to enter into a rewarding, good-paying career in the construction trades after high school graduation. For students who find joy in hands-on, project-based learning, an apprenticeship through a construction union pays (yes, pays) apprentices to learn the skills necessary to advance in a construction career.

That’s why the Construction Careers Foundation (CCF), a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Minneapolis-St. Paul, offers apprenticeship resources all year round. Guided by a volunteer board comprised of construction-business owners, management firms, trade associations, and labor representation, the shared vision of the CCF is to motivate underrepresented youth to graduate from high school, give them the chance to explore the wide range of opportunities in the construction trades, and facilitate their entrance into careers in their chosen trade.

“Apprenticeship through a construction union offers an incredible pathway for many young people. However, it’s often overlooked in favor of attending college or joining the military,” said Mary Stuart, Associate Director of CCF. “Not every young person wants to pursue those two pathways. That’s why it’s our mission to garner awareness about the strong opportunities available in the building trades – one of which is apprenticeship through a union.”

What is an apprenticeship?

Apprenticeship is a proven and industry-driven training model that provides a critical talent pipeline outside of obtaining higher education or joining the military. Apprenticeship is the gateway to most construction and building trades careers. Most people enter into an apprenticeship program for their chosen trade. Similar to other careers, each apprenticeship program varies in skill and time requirements.

What are the benefits of union apprenticeship?

Earn while you learn – Get paid a solid wage and enjoy great benefits (healthcare, pension, etc.) while you learn. Though prior experience is an asset, it is not required.

Feel rewarded – When you enter into a construction apprenticeship, you get to spend your days working on a project that you can see to completion. Next time you drive by a bridge, stadium, or hospital you worked on, you get to say, “I made that.”

Stay flexible – Does the thought of spending each day working the same hours, in the same room, with the same people make you feel…claustrophobic? Don’t fret – construction apprentices spend their days in a variety of ways: indoors, outdoors, working with new folks, and during different hours. If you like flexibility and change, this just may be the pathway for you.

Get in shape – As a construction apprentice, your body is as much of a tool as anything in your toolbox. As the weeks go on, you’ll gain muscle, and increase cardiovascular fitness and endurance.

Click here to learn more about the benefits of union apprenticeship.

How do I know if an apprenticeship is right for me?

Do you enjoy hands-on learning as opposed to sitting at a desk?

Do you like to know how things work?

Do you want to leave a legacy by creating something that outlives you?

Do you want to get paid while you learn a new skill?

Are you uninterested in attending a higher education institution or joining the military?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any or all of the above questions, apprenticeship might be the right fit for you.

Apprenticeship is an earn-while-you-learn career pathway, in which apprentices are paid to learn the skills necessary to advance in their field. Though some classroom instruction is necessary, the majority of this learning happens on a real job site. Though timelines vary depending on which trade an apprentice pursues, a typical apprenticeship is between 1-5 years long. Visit CCF’s careers page for more information on registered apprenticeship by trade.

Educators, parents, and students: Resources are always available

Though National Apprenticeship Week has come and gone for 2023, resources regarding entering a career in construction through a union apprenticeship are always available. Start by visiting, where you’ll gain immediate access to:

  • Programs such as the Minnesota Trades Academy and Learn2Build that allow students to gain construction experience as a young person.
  • Information on 30+ careers in the construction trades, such as key skills, average wages, and success stories from current apprentices.
  • Direct contact to a career readiness expert. Contact Trades Navigator Charie Gill at with any and all questions you may have about entering a career in construction. Are you an educator? Contact Gill to request a classroom Trades Navigator presentation.

Don’t have time to regularly peruse the website? Subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter to receive the latest updates on apprenticeship application deadlines, internship opportunities, and industry news right in your inbox.

Construction Careers Foundation: Build Your Future

To read stories similar to this one, visit the blog at

Educators: CCF Careers page has everything students need to explore a career in construction over winter break (or any time of year)

For students who want access to clear, accurate information about pursuing a career in the construction trades after high school, the Careers page on is a great place to start.

For many high school students, winter break is a time to relax and unwind. However, it’s also the perfect time for students to reflect on their long-term goals. When the semester is in full swing, homework is due, and extracurriculars take over evenings, it can be hard to find the time to think about one’s future. With limited schoolwork demands over winter break, high school students are free to get curious about what they’d like to do once homework is a thing of the past.

For students who want to find clear, accurate, and relevant information about pursuing a career in the construction trades after high school, resourcing the careers page on, is a great place to start.

This free resource breaks 30+ construction career paths into three categories: floor and wall trades, mechanical and electrical trades, site preparation trades, and other trades.

Under each trade, you’ll find:

Starting wage and journey level wage – Students can compare average beginning-of-career and peak-of-career wages between trades to see which best aligns with their expectations.

Career requirements – Some trades require a high school diploma or GED, a driver’s license, and reliable transportation for entry.

Trade description – A student might think they know, for example, what a career in plumbing entails, but there is much more that goes into each trade than meets the eye. This section describes what a trade actually involves, such as working at heights, working indoors or outdoors, types of projects you’ll work on, what stage of the project you’ll work on, if travel is involved, physical strength requirements, and more.

Apprenticeship pathway – Each trade requires a different level of training of apprentices. For example, a sheet metal worker apprenticeship in the state of Minnesota is typically four years long, while a laborer apprenticeship usually lasts anywhere from two to three years.

Trade school pathway – Do you have a student who is interested in a career in construction, but knows they want to pursue higher education first? This section details what options are available for students who would like to achieve further education before entering a career in construction.

Military pathway – Time spent in the military is an incredible asset when entering a career in construction. Students who want to serve their country prior to entering a full-time career can learn more about the great options available here.

Tools needed – Oftentimes, construction professionals are required to own and care for their own tools. It’s always best to be prepared – students can take a look at this list and decide if the tools needed for any given trade are an investment they’d like to make.

And more.

(Perhaps most) importantly, each career page features information that is relevant to students based on where they are at. Recommended high school classes and key skills show students what they can do right now to set themselves up for success in a career in each trade.

Most careers pages also feature success stories from current apprentices in any given trade, so they can see real-life examples of construction professionals (not much older than they are) who are thriving in their chosen trade.

Jobsites are big. Dream bigger. Listen to Mariah Lenon’s construction experience.  

So, before sending students away for winter break, make sure your students have this helpful resource in their back pocket. Visit the careers page here.

Construction Careers Foundation: Resources for Educators, Students, Parents, and More

The careers page is just one of the many resources available on Visit the website today to view available internships, educator resources, and more hands-on construction career exploration opportunities catered to K-12 students.

Minnesota Trades Academy Hosts 50 Twin Cities Students for a Paid Summer Internship Program

In the past five years, the Minnesota Trades Academy (MTA) has graduated more than 150 young people from its paid summer construction internship program. This summer, from June 20 until mid-August, 50 interns will experience the program and receive personal tours of at least five construction programs and union apprenticeship training centers in the Twin Cities. Interns also will learn how to read blueprints, use tools and practice construction safety on their summer project worksites. 

The Construction Careers Foundation developed The Minnesota Trades program for students who are interested in exploring careers in Minnesota’s building trades and construction industry. 

“The Minnesota Trades Academy is a paid internship program for young people who do real work and practice valuable real-world skills applicable to any construction site,” said Construction Careers Foundation Program Director Lindsay Tallman. “Interns will use this summer to strengthen their skills and explore career pathways that they can apply to when they turn 18 and are eligible to join a construction trades union.”

A group of Interns at Right Track.

Photo Credit Lindsay Tallman.

The Minnesota Trades Academy interns are 16 to 22 years old. They register and interview for the apprenticeship through one of four local cohorts – Minneapolis Step Up, St. Paul Right Track, Ramsey County’s Hired and Brooklyn Centers’ BrookLynk.

The internship includes two consecutive tracks of focused study. 

Track I is an eight-week introduction into construction career opportunities in the building trades industry. Interns work in hands-on workshops led by MTA leaders on how to use tools, practice measuring, and get the chance to build take home projects. Interns also practice specific trades experiences such as carpentry, pipefitting, and demo with the electrical trades. They are also exposed to industry-related careers such as architecture, surveying, estimating, project management, and design build.

Track II directs interns toward an advanced route of applied learning. Interns are prepared to select a construction career path to further explore – union apprenticeship training; construction-related post-secondary tracts; or direct entry into the construction workplace. From there, interns enter different apprenticeship training centers where they receive tours, training and supervision from industry experts while completing projects using both hand and power tools.

“We look forward to another successful year of trades exploration and we want to thank our community partners, trade unions and amazing mentors for providing our interns with a comprehensive view of all that Minnesota’s construction industry has to offer,” Tallman said.

To learn more about the Minnesota Trades Academy and the Construction Careers Foundation, visit


Are you a student looking for a summer job? Here are five ideas to help kick-start a career in the construction trades

What better time to explore your future than during the summer!

Are you a hands-on learner, a quick problem solver, or mechanically inclined? Do you like figuring out how things work, building something from the ground up, or working with others on a project? For middle and high school students, early exposure to construction trades allows you to experience a variety of skills that can help guide you towards a career you enjoy. 

For those interested in cultivating their skills and working toward a possible career in construction, here are five jobs you can do this summer to help you prepare and gain prior experience in various fields that can help you build a promising career in the trades.

Ten students sitting around a table.

Photo Credit Lindsay Tallman

Landscaping – Spend your summer outside working with a team of landscapers. Learn how to plan, construct, and execute an exterior home landscape design while testing your physical exertion and ability to adapt to changing weather conditions. Professional trades such as laborers, tile workers, and sprinkler fitters recommend experience in these conditions to set you up for later success.

Local Hardware Store – In almost any town or suburb, you can find a local hardware store looking for employees. This is a great opportunity to familiarize yourself with tools, their functions, and how to work with customers seeking solutions to their problems. Plumbers and lathers stress the importance in recognizing tools and understanding how to fix problems on their own. 

Manufacturing Plant – Experience a large workplace and learn from others while working with machinery, blueprints, and recognizing construction hand signals. Manufacturing plants allow you to gain insight on the collaborative nature of construction careers, pushing you to work with others and learn how to make your working environment safe. Boilermakers utilize their knowledge gained while working with large machinery and reading blueprints, securing themselves as professionals in their trades. Note: Some plants may have age restrictions for various jobs within a plant.

Auto-shop – Understanding the inner-workings of a car engine and getting your hands fitted with finding solutions is a keen pathway into mechanics. Working in an automotive shop, even a quick oil-change shop, can help enhance your tool recognition and get you comfortable with electrical and mechanical work. Electrical trades, elevator construction, and millwright careers consider these skills necessary to the job.

Learn at home – Is there work around the house that needs tending to? Finding projects around the house is a great way to introduce yourself to construction careers, as there are many resources available online to help you fix that one leak under your sink, or build a new shelf, or fix up the tiles on your patio. Youtube channels such as Home RenoVision DIY, MattBangsWood, and finehomebuilding make learning on your own easy. The more you watch, the more you learn and grow from others.

About the Construction Careers Foundation

If you want to learn more about Construction Careers Foundation, or wish to explore more construction trades, visit or click here.