Brooklyn Center, Minnesota – Nineteen-year-old Minnesota Trades Academy intern Torrence Brown grew up watching his grandfather take on household projects with swift ease, tenacity, and creativity. What Brown admired the most about his grandfather’s handiness wasn’t necessarily the projects he completed, but the meaning behind them. His grandfather wasn’t only completing this work out of necessity or drive, but out of a desire to build a warm home for his wife, Brown’s grandmother. Now, Brown wants to follow in his footsteps.
“I’d like to work in HVAC so that I can redo my grandma’s house. She doesn’t have central air right now, and I’d like to be able to give that to her,” said Brown.
Though the intern’s career aspirations come from a very personal place, there are other things about a career in construction that appeal to him. Gaining a professional certification without taking on thousands of dollars in college debt is a big draw for Brown.
“I wasn’t really interested in going to college, so I learned about the trades. I liked the concept of getting certification and getting paid for it rather than going to college and being in debt,” said Brown. “Plus, your HVAC system is one of the most important things you need in your house. If my heating was ever to go out in the winter or if I get hot in the summertime, I’d be able to fix it myself. I don’t have to rely on nobody.”
This summer, Brown is taking the first step in his career as a construction professional by interning with the Minnesota Trades Academy (MTA). The program is funded and conducted by the Construction Careers Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “increase the diversity of entrants into the construction trades and foster long-term construction careers.” MTA is a summer internship program that supports this mission by offering paid summer construction internship experiences for selected high school youth. The goal of the program is to help youth prepare for adulthood through skill development, personal development, and knowledge on how to access good jobs with good benefits in the construction industry.
After hearing that his friends had a great experience as MTA interns, Brown entered the program for the first time this summer with zero construction or building experience. Now mid-way through his summer internship with MTA, Brown has helped rebuild a roof, learned how to pour concrete, built his own planter box, visited several construction unions, and made connections with union leaders across the metro area. Next, Brown and the other interns will help renovate a community member’s home porch.
“I am learning so many different construction skills through the program,” said Brown. “I think it’s great because everything we learn is so real and hands-on. It teaches you a lot, fast.”
Brown has shared his aspiration to work with HVAC systems with his parents, who have been extremely supportive. “I have talked to my parents about it, and they’re all for it. They want me to get some type of certification. ‘Why not?’ That’s what they tell me,” said Brown. “I have enough time to learn a few of the trades if I really wanted to. So, they’re very supportive.”
When Brown is off the job, he enjoys playing video games, including his favorite game, Grand Theft Auto, and trying all the new food that he can – a well-deserved reprieve from the strong work and learning this intern has dedicated himself to all summer.
For more resources regarding a career in construction, visit www.ConstructionCareers.org.
For more stories similar to this one, view the Construction Careers Foundation Success Stories page.