Saint Paul, Minnesota – Whether he is drawing a work of art, crocheting a hat, or building a footstool, 16-year-old Jakote Saint James loves any activity that allows him to rework materials to create something new.
“You have to make sure you enjoy the process,” said Saint James. “If you don’t enjoy making something step by step, then you won’t enjoy the end as much.”
Recently, Saint James stumbled upon a new passion of his through his participation in the Minnesota Trades Academy (MTA), a paid summer internship opportunity for high school-aged youth designed to help youth gain valuable skills and explore careers in the construction industry. The Minnesota Trades Academy is one of several programs offered through the Construction Careers Foundation, a Minneapolis-St. Paul nonprofit is dedicated to introducing young people to careers in construction (ConstructionCareers.org).
“I heard about MTA from my sister, who was thinking of joining the Minnesota Trades Academy as well. I love working with my hands and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to get paid to do just that,” said Saint James. “In school, you don’t hear as much about the trades, but once you start going into job sites and seeing what they do, it helps to open your eyes to more job opportunities that align with your passions that don’t require you to go to college, which never interested me.”
MTA Pays Students to Gain Skills, Fine-Tune Passions Through Real-World Experience
Even though college never felt like a good fit for Saint James, who prefers more hands-on, project-based learning, his time at the Minnesota Trades Academy helped him to see the connection between the subjects he found interesting in school and the real-life work he will be doing once he graduates.
“In school, my favorite class is definitely science. It is very interesting learning about chemicals and making weird concoctions,” said Saint James. “I see subjects like science and math in a new light now because I understand that to succeed in certain trades you must know how electricity works. To be a sheet worker, for example, you need to learn the equations they use to make refrigerators.”
One thing that Saint James enjoyed the most about his time as an intern for the Minnesota Trades Academy, was getting connected to people he could see as role models for his career.
“At the carpenters union we got to work side-by-side with real apprentices,” said Saint James. “It was great to see those role models, knowing they were close to, or around, our ages.”
After working alongside journeyworkers and apprentices and visiting job sites and training centers for a handful of Minnesota-based local unions and construction firms, Saint James discovered that, of all the trades, carpentry clicks the most for him.
“To me, success would be to sit and enjoy something you created; to be able to finish something like a stadium, and look at it and think, ‘I did that,’” said Saint James. “When we went to the carpenters union and they let us try doing what they do, a lightbulb went off for me. Doing that hands-on work really sparked a passion in me.”
For any high school students considering a career in the trades, Saint James has one piece of advice: Just try it out.
“In the trades, there are so many opportunities and options. The Minnesota Trades Academy helps you narrow down what you want to do because you get to try everything out,” said Saint James. “You get to work with a crew to learn new things, learn how to measure, use a hammer and more. If you want to be able to get a nice look into the trades or if you are a hands-on person, MTA is for you.”
Construction Careers Foundation: Connecting Youth to Strong Careers They Love
To learn more about the Minnesota Trades Academy, click here.
To explore more than 30+ careers in the construction industry, visit CCF’s Careers page.