Career Switch: School Teacher discovers passion for Carpentry

By: Amanda Pedersen

Getting his degree in education from St. Cloud State University, Dan Stanton, 32, did not initially imagine himself going into the construction trades.

After all, as an elementary and middle school teacher for six years, Stanton thought he would be teaching for the rest of his life.

But, during a break, Stanton was searching for another school to teach at and in the meantime he needed a way to make money. So, through a friend, he learned about a construction job as a carpenter.

“The job had really good starting pay, so I decided to give it a shot,” Stanton said.

To Stanton’s surprise, he enjoyed working in construction, which lead him to apply for a four-year apprenticeship as a carpenter through the Minnesota State Interior Systems Local 68 Union.

“Working in construction was a door that unexpectedly opened for me,” Stanton said. “It felt like it was where I just needed to be.”

Introduction to Carpentry
The job of a carpenter varies from day to day. Carpenters are part of pretty much every construction process. They assist in site preparation; build concrete forms and decks; frame walls and roofs; hang interior and exterior walls; install windows, doors, acoustical ceilings, countertops and trim; and install locks, hardware and speciality furniture.

To apply for his apprenticeship, Stanton went to the Local 68 union center and provided his high school diploma, with a sponsor letter from a contractor. Although, he notes, now you can apply for an apprenticeship without the sponsor letter; just a high school diploma or GED equivalent.

Stanton is currently in his second year of his apprenticeship as a carpenter.


Concrete benefits, ironclad satisfaction. Listen to Dan Stanton’s construction experience.

“My work is always changing and there’s something new every day,” Stanton said. “That’s one of the reasons I really like it. I have worked on fast food restaurants, small banks, convenience stores, and I am now working on a 27-story tall skyscraper.”

Through Stanton’s apprenticeship, he works a 40-hour week at a job site, during which he gets paid for his full-time work, receives benefits such as healthcare and a pension, all while learning a trade.

For one week, every three months, he does classroom time at the union’s training center where he learns new skills and techniques, which he immediately puts to work the next week while on the job.

“You really get to know the people in your class because we all started at the same time,” Stanton said. “It’s a really cool environment.”

Another added benefit of an apprenticeship is getting paid to learn, which means no student debt.

“You’re not racking up student debt,” Stanton said. “That’s one thing I’m struggling with. I’m still paying off my student debt from college.”

Advice for Future Carpenters
Stanton is overjoyed that he was introduced to the carpentry trade.

“If you like to be on your feet and work with your hands, it’s a no-brainer — you should try out a career in construction,” said Stanton. “There is a common misconception that if you don’t go to college, you won’t get a good job, which is definitely not true.”

Through Stanton’s career in carpentry, he also currently has two pensions that are allowing him to save for retirement.

“I’m going to have plenty of money when I retire,” Stanton said. “Through a career in carpentry, I’ll be set for life.”

Teaching in the Future
Although Stanton is no longer teaching elementary and middle school age children, he sees a future where one day he may teach again.

“I want to hit full journey-level pay and maybe get a job down with the union as an instructor teaching future apprentices,” Stanton said.

Stanton advises high school students to give a career in the construction trades a try.

“It’s a really great gig and you can make a really good living with it,” said Stanton.

Interested in a secure life-long career in the construction trades through apprenticeship? Visit https://constructioncareers.org/careers/.