Apprenticeship is an important part of training and developing union building and construction trades professionals, and National Apprenticeship Week, celebrated annually each year in November, is a time for educators to make students aware of the benefits of enrolling in an apprenticeship after graduation.
Apprenticeship programs conducted by Minnesota’s building and construction trades give students an opportunity to earn as they learn, combining classroom studies with time spent in the field and getting paid. While tuition costs and student debt continue to rise, apprenticeship programs offer another option to young people seeking an education that leads to a fulfilling, good-paying career.
In Minnesota, the Construction Careers Foundation is the leading comprehensive educational resource for Minnesota high school students and youth interested in a building trades apprenticeship.
Construction Career Foundation, a Twin Cities-based nonprofit, leads a statewide effort called Construction Careers Pathway (CCP) that’s designed to attract new generations into the building and construction trades and provide young people with a different pathway after graduation for those who do not want to go to college or join the military.
“Working construction was a natural fit for me because the work was interesting,” said 29-year-old, Zach Poulson, a bricklayer with BAC Local 1 Minnesota/North Dakota/South Dakota. He recalled spending summer days in high school working for a local construction company.
“At first, I just wanted something that would help me make a lot of money over the summer,” Poulson said. “But then, when I went to college, I knew I did not want to be one of those guys paying off my student loans for 20 years because of a low-paying career.”
After Poulson graduated from college, he moved to Minneapolis from Pennsylvania. In the Twin Cities, he picked up another job in the masonry trades in an effort to start paying off his mounting student debt.
“I knew a fast way to pay off my debt was through the high wages in the masonry trade,” Poulson said. “Looking back to high school, I wish I viewed the trades more seriously as a career path earlier in life — I would be better off today if I had given the trades a chance.”
Minnesota Needs Gen Z Construction Workers
It takes dedicated professionals to build and maintain Minnesota’s roads, bridges, water systems, schools, hospitals, stadiums and office buildings. The skills and knowledge of those in the trades keep business, homes and Minnesota running.
ConstructionCareers.org, a website created by the Construction Careers Foundation, highlights the benefits of apprenticeship for young people who are interested in exploring building and construction trades apprenticeships and careers in Minnesota’s construction industry.
To help students better understand why they should consider a career in construction, ConstructionCareers.org offers stories and videos of real-life construction workers who share why they chose a career in construction and the process they took to get into the building trades industry.
“We want all students to learn about careers in construction from real people who look like them and come from the same communities as them,” said Sarah Lechowich, senior director of the Construction Careers Foundation. “We want them to see that if you have an interest in working with your hands, you are wanted in Minnesota’s construction trades.”
High School Students Can Start Careers in Construction Today
Students who are at least 18 years old and have earned their high school degree or GED can begin the exploration process for a building trades apprenticeship.
Apprenticeships offered by Minnesota’s trade unions are typically multi-year programs where the apprentice works with a journeyperson to learn a specific craft and skill set. Once accepted, an apprentice immediately earns a paycheck while learning. In addition to incurring no college debt, building trade apprentices also obtain healthcare and dental insurance and are enrolled in a union pension plan.
“View the ConstructionCareers.org website and share it with your students,” Poulson said. “I can’t emphasize enough how much students need to be made aware of these career paths — when I was a student I felt worried and overwhelmed thinking about what to do after high school. The trades are a dependable and enjoyable way to start a career.”