Minnesota High School Students Can Earn Credit Taking Online Construction Courses

The International Union of Operating Engineers – K12 Industry Partnership Offers Minnesota Students an Apprenticeship Pathway.

The International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 49 and Minnesota Virtual Academy (MNVA) have partnered to offer online courses designed to introduce Minnesota high school students in grades 9 through 12 to the heavy equipment industry.

More than 50 students have enrolled in these online courses from any school district across the state of Minnesota — at no cost to them. Class credits count toward high school elective classes, college credit, and will make a student better prepared for the IUOE Local 49 Apprenticeship Program.

“Full-time and part-time students are participating in our courses and they do not need to become full-time MNVA students to access our classes,” said Jenny Winkelaar Director of Workforce and Community Development at IUOE Local 49. “In fact, students don’t have to take the modules sequentially; they are free to pick and choose what is of interest to them.”

Winkelaar would like to see students who complete the program to be better informed about career options available to them in the trades, allowing them to first, decide if being an operating engineer is a good fit for them, and second, decide which career path within heavy-equipment operations (dirt, crane, or mechanics) they’d like to pursue.

Minnesota Virtual Academy’s Operating Engineers Pathway preview. Students can enroll in this pathway to get a better understanding of heavy machinery operations and to gain the skills necessary to assist in entering the operating engineers apprenticeship program following graduation.

“The best part of the MNVA program is that students will be eligible to receive college credit through North Hennepin Community College, which will be transferable in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MNSCU) system,” Winkelaar said. “Students who complete the pathway who get hired on by a signatory contractor will also be eligible to receive credit toward their apprenticeship program — so all MNVA participants — whether they are college-focused, or apprenticeship-bound benefit from taking MNVA courses.”

More Courses, New Career Pathways for Students

This MNVA and Local 49 partnership allows Minnesota schools to offer their students more pathways without the added cost of materials, added space and specialized staff. The courses offered include construction exploration, basic grade and construction math, construction equipment fundamentals, and basic maintenance of mobile equipment.

“This is an exciting virtual opportunity that provides students with an education and supports the future of our communities,” Winkelaar said. “Our state has numerous high paying careers in the field of heavy equipment operation, and our program will give students a jump start in pursuing those careers.”

Local 49 and MNVA partnership overview for future operating engineers and interested students.

Plus, students from anywhere in Minnesota now have free access to industry-relevant education that can give them a leg-up when applying to construction apprenticeships in the skilled trades workforce.

“Construction Careers Foundation is supporting Local 49’s initiative to connect with Minnesota youth because we know it’s critical to get this information out to young people interested in the trades already and those who are still exploring what their post-graduation plans might look like,” said Sarah Lechowich senior director of the Construction Careers Foundation, which coordinates Construction Career Pathways, a statewide initiative to attract more young people into Minnesota’s construction industry. “Students curious to learn more about careers in construction can also resource our Career Spotlight page on Operating Engineers.”

The IUOE registered apprenticeship program requires applicants to be 18 year of age or older, have a high school diploma or GED equivalent, possess a valid driver’s license and reliable transportation, and be able to pass an entry-level assessment test as well as drug test. First year apprentice wage rates range from $24-$34/hour plus benefits.

At this time, the classroom is completely virtual but Winkelaar said the intent is to have hands-on experiences in partnership with IOUE Local 49’s training center as soon as possible.

“We will allow students participating in this apprenticeship readiness pathway to visit the IUOE Local 49 Training Center located in Hinckley, Minnesota, where they will be able to engage in hands-on activities on heavy equipment simulators,” said Jason George, IUOE Local 49 Business Manager. “This will help determine if a student’s aptitude and abilities line up with their interest in pursuing a career in the vast field of heavy- equipment operations and mechanics.”

School districts throughout the state have enrolled students in the program as a way to offer a meaningful virtual experience unlike any other course a student may have the option to take.

“Having a program like this in which any student in the state can participate is the most equitable approach,” Winkelaar said. “By connecting with Minnesota’s K-12 education system, we continue the tradition of training excellence while also reaching new and diverse populations that may not have connections or awareness of our industry.”

The International Union of Operating Local 49 is the largest construction union in Minnesota and represents 14,000 members in many different industries related to infrastructure and construction throughout Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

For more information on operating engineers visit www.local49.org and resource Constructioncareers.org for information and contacts to more than 30 construction career pathways in Minnesota.