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Resiliency Built Through Wrestling Leads to a Rewarding Career in Ironworking

By Sophia Klein

Minneapolis, Minnesota — 19-year-old Marcus McGinley has known he would go into ironworking since his sophomore year of high school. McGinley was inspired by how highly his family friend spoke of the job, and knew it fit with what he wanted out of a career.

“That last year of high school everyone’s talking about, ‘Oh, I’m going to this college, I’m going to this college,’ said McGinley, who attended Humbolt High School. “I was saying I’m going to be an ironworker. That’s what I was telling everyone.”

Although McGinley did end up attending college for a short while, his initial instinct turned out to be the right one.

“I ended up going to college to participate on the school’s wrestling team, and came back after the wrestling season,” he said. “I didn’t like college at all. As soon as the wrestling season ended, I left.”

McGinley is now in the second month of his apprenticeship as a reinforcing ironworker with Iron Workers Union, Local 512.

“I feel like I’m exactly where I need to be,” McGinley said. “Honestly, I don’t think there’s been one day where I was like, I don’t want to go to work today, because it’s a really cool job.”

Finding Meaning in a Challenge

One of McGinley’s favorite parts of being an ironworker is the feeling of triumph after completing a challenging task.

“You just want to go for it and just say, okay, well I’m not going to quit. That’s not the type of person I am. Challenging myself – that’s what drives me to keep going and showing up every day,” said McGinley.

As someone who has always been hands-on and results-driven, McGinley loves that he can see all the work he’s accomplishing in real-time.

“You can just see everything building up and you can look back and say, ‘Oh, at least I’m making progress,’ or ‘I got this much more to go.’ It’s really cool. It’s pretty exciting to see how things are built and how things are done,” McGinley said.

McGinley attributes his spirit of resilience to his time as a wrestler in high school and college. His years of experience persevering through a challenge in the sport have set him up well to thrive as an ironworker.

He notes that, with his wrestling experience under his belt, the day-to-day life in construction feels very achievable, and the environment is far from intimidating.

“I feel like ironworkers have this picture painted of them like teeth-grinders — mean guys. That’s not how it is,” he said. “I was nervous about that at first, but as I’ve gotten to know everyone, I realized they were really nice and were more than willing to help me become better.”

Starting Young Has Its Perks

It’s never too late to start a career in construction, but McGinley feels very lucky that he started as early as he did. At 19 years old, McGinley already has a few thousand dollars in his pension fund.

“When I tell people I work with about my age, they’re like, man, if you stick with this, you’re going to have $1.5 to $2 million dollars in there when you retire,” said McGinley.

This is exciting for McGinley, who has big dreams to own his own house and land one day.

“I guess I’m striving to just make it to where I can just go out to eat if I want to go out to eat, and just not have to worry about money,” he said.

McGinley adds that if he desires to travel later on, his career would give him the perfect avenue to do so.

“If you want to travel, then go for it,” said McGinley. “I heard about a fellow ironworker who was interested in working in another part of the country. His company asked: ‘You want to go to Hawaii or Alaska?’ He picked Hawaii. So, he’s out there working now. That’s pretty cool. They’ll set you up anywhere, pretty much.”

McGinley wants to encourage everyone to look into a career in ironworking and says that no one should be discouraged from the job based on fear of failure, or not fitting in.

“The construction trades, in my opinion,” McGinley said, “they’re better than college. You get to make money while you’re in school. It’s really cool. Just research trades on Google, try and find something. There’s a place for everyone.”

Interested in more information about a rewarding career in construction through apprenticeship?

The Construction Careers Foundation helps connect young people like Marcus McGinley with registered apprenticeships in Minnesota’s building and construction trades. View apprenticeship opportunities in Minnesota.

To read more Success Stories like Marcus McGinley’s visit: https://constructioncareers.org/success-stories/