Camps, sports, and daylong activities are a few popular ways for high school students to stay active and meet new friends in the summer. However, when the school year starts many of these relationships can fall away until the next year.
But for Twin Cities youth eager to get paid as an intern learning hands-on construction skills, meeting new friends is inevitable and grounded in the common interest of building something with one’s own hands.
The Twin Cities nonprofit Construction Careers Foundation developed the Minnesota Trades Academy (MTA) to introduce local high school students to a variety of careers in Minnesota’s construction industry and over eight weeks equip interns with the skills they need to pursue a career in the construction trades.
Over the past 10 years, the Minnesota Trades Academy has evolved program branches in White Bear Lake, Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis, and St. Paul.
“Each year we set goals for the Minnesota Trades Academy program,” said Construction Careers Program Director Lindsay Tallman. “This year focused on the intern voice. We wanted to check in with interns individually throughout the summer session and follow up with them during the school year to hear their feedback and recommendations for the program and learn how we can continue to support them on their educational journey.”
Tallman and Construction Careers Foundation team member Charie Gill organized a Top Golf event in Brooklyn Center to reconnect this summer’s class of Minnesota Trades Academy interns.
More than 12 interns representing the Brooklyn Center, White Bear Lake, St. Paul, and Minneapolis cohorts attended the event.
“We knew some intern groups stayed in touch over the summer, but from our first alumni event it’s clear that the friendships they built lasted into the school year,” Tallman said. “One student even walked an hour just to meet up with his peers. We learned many of the interns hang out after school and take classes together and it’s evident they have built strong friendships and support each other.”
Tallman plans to continue scheduling time for interns to reconnect because the cohorts include students from a variety of backgrounds and school districts. Interns range in age from 16 to 22.
“We also were excited to have some Minnesota Trades alumni from prior years attend the Top Golf event,” Tallman said. “It means a lot to us that people who experienced our program years ago still see its benefit and feel that the experience helped them gain job skills and resources to shape their future, it’s also rewarding to see that we’re building an MTA network; everyone has a shared experience and so interns can ask the older alumni questions about their current careers, lifestyles, and plans.”
“The high school experience is difficult. We expect a lot out of young people, and we know the pressure to make big life decisions can come from family members, peers, and professors,” Tallman said. “Our vision is to continue hosting these MTA meet-ups so our interns know we are here for them, even after the summer construction session has ended.”
Tallman said establishing regular meetups for the intern classes holds interns accountable for exploring their pathway options after graduation, whether that be pursuing a career, a university education, the military, or a technical degree.
For some youths, the pathway to a career in construction is not always linear. Tallman acknowledges that support for some young people might look like setting up interviews with union apprenticeship coordinators, while for others, support may come in the form of helping them apply for a job at a local hardware store to become familiar with tools or helping them enroll in driver’s education courses.
By continuing to meet with the Minnesota Trades Academy interns, Construction Careers Foundation team members hold themselves accountable to follow up with youth in the program and provide them with a network of mentors in the construction trades and people they can reach out to for career advice.
“As we continue to coordinate training, events, and paid internships for young people in the construction field we need to give them a voice at the table,” Tallman said. “Whether interns graduate from the Minnesota Trades Academy knowing a career in construction is for them or wait to graduate high school and are serious about starting a career, we are creating spaces for them to gather, share their thoughts and help us make decisions to better the program experience for future interns.
Questions about the Minnesota Trades Academy? Connect with Lindsay Tallman at email@example.com.
To explore more than 30+ careers in the construction industry, visit CCF’s Careers page.