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Highland Park Career Path Coordinator, Basketball Coach Teaches Students about Minnesota’s Construction Trades

Highland Park High School Boys’ Head Basketball coach and self-proclaimed “basketball junkie,” Jesse McCann has been a student of the game since his early elementary years; he has enjoyed the game in all facets as a fan, player, and coach. He admired the play of point guards John Stockton, Steve Nash, and Jason Kidd growing up. McCann, who was also a pass-first point guard throughout his competitive playing years in Junior College, has enjoyed the evolution of basketball and the point guard position. He now considers himself a big fan of world-class athlete LeBron James because “LBJ is more than an incredible athlete; his basketball IQ, work ethic, and leadership are on a whole other level.”

 Jesse McCann (left) and MTA graduate Larry Renfro (right). PC:McCann

“What I admire in a basketball player isn’t just natural athletic ability,” McCann said. “That’s a plus of course, but I look for players who have great command of the game, court awareness, show dedication to the team and remain motivated to practice skills until they become second nature.”

McCann applies these same principles off the court as Career Path Coordinator at St. Paul’s Highland Park Senior High School, where he supplies students with career exploration experiences and helps them plan out how to attain those careers.

“The best part of my job is connecting students with work-based learning opportunities where they can acquire job skills and explore their interests,” McCann said. “When students engage in Work-Based Learning and explore real jobs in the workforce you can see their perspectives and interests change. They become confident in their own skills and empowered to make goals to achieve their career ambitions.”

Planning for the Future Requires Real Conversations – and they can be tough.

“College is a serious commitment and investment,” McCann said. “I challenge students to have real conversations about their futures. If you do not have a clear path on what career college will help you achieve, or you go because your friends are – statistics show there’s a good chance you won’t end up finishing and that debt is not just wiped away.”

Saint Paul Public Schools Career Pathways highlight high wage and in-demand careers Education & Community Justice, Innovative & Emerging Technologies, Business & Communications, and Medical & Science fields. There is also a push to encourage students to consider careers in the construction trades.

“The focus has become more around career planning and less about admission into a college,” McCann said. “This does not mean college won’t be a part of their plan; for many, college will play a part of their journey, however it is more about backward planning to know what type of college or post-secondary training your career calls for.”

“It can be tough to have these real conversations,” McCann said. “We dig in and it can be uncomfortable, but my hope is for all my students to go into careers that make them happy and speak to their talents and interests.”

A Paid Summer Internship for Students Considering the Trades

One career field to which McCann is seeking to draw more attention at Highland Park High School is Minnesota’s construction trades. He collaborates with his friend and Trades Navigator, Sam Ebute to encourage students to apply for the Minnesota Trades Academy (MTA). “Sam attracts many student interns with his sense of calm and encouraging demeanor,” McCann said.

The Minnesota Trades Academy is one of the programs offered through Construction Career Pathways (constructioncareers.org), a statewide nonprofit effort supported by trade unions, construction companies, a growing list of Minnesota school districts, and the State of Minnesota (DEED) that have all come together with the mission of introducing Minnesota’s young people to skilled careers in Minnesota’s construction industry.

The Minnesota Trades Academy (MTA) program serves students, ages 16 to 20 years old, who primarily live in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. Students work 20 to 30 hours per week and are paid as they work on real-life projects.McCann said the Minnesota Trades Academy program gives his students the resources and the networking opportunities to build their professional brand and engage in serious conversations about their future education and their career plans with building and construction trades professionals.

“Being a part of the union construction trades is not just about swinging a hammer,” McCann said. “The trades are not given the attention they deserve within our educational system. There are so many layers to the careers within the construction industry. Many careers include viable, high-paying jobs for people who have the knack to work with their hands, enjoy being outside or just like to create.”

McCann has many sophomores and juniors interested in the program and plans to work with local educators and trades professionals to provide construction experiences earlier in students’ education, so by the time students are seniors they consider joining the trades as a natural transition after high school into a full time career. Students are currently in the process of interviewing and going through the selection process with MTA staff to see if it will be a good fit.

“The Minnesota Trades Academy program changes kids’ lives,” McCann said. “I will continue to be a referral source for MTA. Students participate in leadership activities, build their resumes, get interviewing skills and receive real training from Union construction training centers and tours of worksites from house building to oil refineries.”

For more information on Careers in Construction visit ConstructionCareers.org.