Saint Paul, Minnesota – Twenty-one-year-old Isra Saleh is a creative powerhouse. A talented singer and member of the MKDC KPOP dance team, where she shares her moves with more than 36k followers on Instagram, it was only a matter of time before her creative potential expanded into another interest.
For Saleh, it all began when she saw her mother’s friend, who is a carpentry apprentice, complete beautifully intricate pieces for home renovations.
“My friend’s mom does lots of renovations, and she seems like she loves what she does,” said Saleh. “A lot of what she talked about doing were things that I was interested in. I would see her finish beautiful cabinetry pieces, and I would think, ‘How did she make that?’ And I wanted to be able to do it myself.”
Inspired to learn more about the trades and unsure of where to begin, Saleh took matters into her own hands. A quick Google search led her straight to the Construction Careers Foundation website, where she explored what it would be like to start a career in carpentry. Antsy to begin gaining a new skill set, Saleh got connected to the Minnesota Trades Academy (MTA), a paid summer internship program that grants youth the opportunity to explore careers in the construction trades.
“I am the kind of person that will try anything and everything,” said Saleh. “I am so new to the trades and definitely not an expert, but I love MTA because I’ve gotten to ask a lot of questions, got to try things I’ve never even heard of before, and it has been a lot of fun exploring new things and having these new opportunities. It’s really nice to be pushed to grow in such a supportive environment.”
Creatively oriented as she is, Saleh’s artistic spirit does not leave her stuck in the clouds. In fact, Saleh is extremely grounded in the knowledge that this kind of work could allow her to make practical advances in her own life, and even, her future home.
“I love the idea that I could do maintenance and repairs and create things for my own house,” said Saleh. “I find joy in creativity and it’s so fulfilling to be able to create something from square one that you can see every day.”
The Space to Try
Though Saleh’s willingness to try new things is a quality that many would envy, that doesn’t mean that it came easy to her. Her tenacity is a result of perseverance and years of feeling constrained to one particular path.
“My high school offered construction courses, but in high school, I was had the mindset that I had to take all the courses that checked all of the boxes for the goal of going to college. Once I realized college wasn’t for me, I felt like it was too late to do anything else,” said Saleh. “But then I realized – it’s never too late. And I began to give myself the space to try.”
As an MTA intern, Saleh has had the opportunity to gain new skills, try on new ‘hats,’ and even get connected to new role models and support systems within the trades – all while getting paid to do so.
“My favorite thing that I have done through MTA was visiting the bricklayers. They do such precise, focused work,” said Saleh. “Walking into the internship as a woman, it was also really reassuring to walk into a training center and see other women doing the job I want to be doing.”
Along with everything else she has gained from her experience as an intern, Saleh has learned some pretty spectacular lessons that she plans to take along with her.
“The biggest lessons I have learned through MTA are that it is okay to try new things, be bad at them, then work on them and get better,” said Saleh. “And that you always have better options for your life than what it may seem.”
Try Something New with the Construction Careers Foundation
To learn more about the Minnesota Trades Academy, click here.
To explore more than 30+ careers in the construction industry, visit Construction Careers Foundation’s Careers page.