Apprenticeships in the building and construction trades are the primary training pipeline for high school students entering Minnesota’s construction industry. While college tuition costs and student debt continue to rise, apprenticeship offers another option to young people seeking an education that leads to a good-paying career.
National Apprenticeship Week (including Apprenticeship Week in Minnesota) in November, from Nov. 15 to Nov. 21, is the perfect time for middle-school and high-school educators to make students aware of the benefits of enrolling in a registered apprenticeship program after high school graduation.
Apprenticeships give students an opportunity to earn as they learn, combining classroom studies with time spent in the field, working under the direction of a journeyperson – all while getting paid. Right out of high school, apprentices gain skills and credentials that last a lifetime, and can end up in careers that pay more than their peers with college degrees.
Starting the Path Toward Apprenticeship
To become an electrician, plumber, pipefitter, heavy-equipment operator, etc., Minnesota’s trade unions offer apprenticeships to train the next generation of building and construction skilled workers.
Apprenticeship Minnesota, a department within the Minnesota Department of Labor that registers and monitors apprenticeship programs throughout the state, recognizes the Construction Careers Foundation (CCF) as a leading comprehensive educational resource to introduce middle and high school students to 30 different career options in the building trades.
The Construction Careers Foundation is a Minneapolis-St. Paul based nonprofit founded with the intent of making Minnesota’s young people more aware about careers in construction. Its website, ConstructionCareers.org, presents students like Juan Davila, who did not want to go to college or join the military after graduating, with a third career option after graduation.
“I’ve always been really good at building things, and I’ve always found a lot of pride in that type of work,” said Davila, a 22-year-old cement mason apprentice with Local 633. “But no one ever talked about the construction trades as a career option.”
Every professional at Davila’s high school stressed two paths: entering college or joining the military. This led to a lot of confusion for Davila, who knew his potential lay elsewhere.
“I considered going to college, but I couldn’t stop thinking of all the debt that was going to be over my head. I really didn’t feel comfortable with that,” said Davila. “I also thought about joining the military, but I felt like I was giving up my life to do something that I didn’t really feel passionate about. So, I wanted to go a different way.”
“The union apprenticeship program is amazing. Everyone’s so involved with each other and works really well together,” Davila said. “The journey workers will show you everything you want to learn, and they’ll make you the best version of yourself. You feel like you’re part of something big, and that’s really nice.”
To help students better understand why they should consider a career in construction, ConstructionCareers.org offers stories and videos of real Minnesota construction apprentices like Juan Davila who share their experience in the apprentice program, why they chose a career in construction and the path they took to get into the building trades industry.
“We want all students to learn about careers in construction from real people who look like them and come from the same communities as them,” said Mary Stuart, associate director at CCF said. “We want them to see that if you have an interest in working with your hands, you are wanted in Minnesota’s construction trades.”
Minnesota Needs Gen Z Construction Workers
It takes dedicated professionals to build and maintain Minnesota’s roads, bridges, water systems, and buildings. The skills and knowledge of those in the trades keep business, homes and Minnesota running.
ConstructionCareers.org highlights the benefits of apprenticeship in preparing a highly skilled workforce to meet the talent needs of Minnesota’s construction industry in the decades ahead.
The union construction industry recognizes the impact that strong apprentice training programs have on economic growth for the industry and the state alike, which is why they invest more than $30 million per year into training programs to ensure training of the highest caliber for their new apprentices.
Each year, more and more students take advantage of this opportunity. In 2019, Minnesota welcomed nearly 13,000 new apprentices, a record high number for the state. Of this total number of apprentices, over 10,000 are registered in union apprenticeship programs.
High School Students Can Start Careers in Construction Today
Students who are at least 18 years old and have earned their high school degree or GED can begin the application process for a building trades apprenticeship. Interested students should not be discouraged if they lack experience in the industry, as these apprenticeships offer hands-on training where students earn while they learn and practice their skills.
Apprenticeships offered by Minnesota’s trade unions are typically multi-year programs where the apprentice works with a journeyperson to learn a specific craft and skill set. Once accepted, an apprentice immediately earns a paycheck while learning. In addition to incurring no college debt, building trade apprentices also obtain healthcare and dental insurance and are enrolled in a union pension plan.
“The construction trades, in my opinion, they’re better than college,” Marcus McGinley, 19-year-old ironworker apprentice said. “You get to make money while you’re in school. It’s really cool. Just research trades and try to find something that sounds exciting to you. There’s really a place for everyone.”
This National Apprenticeship Week, educators can share ConstructionCareers.org with their students to help them secure their futures.