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Dungeons and Dragons to Career in Construction

By: Amanda Pederson

Elaborate Dungeons & Dragons campaigns can take a player from solving intricate puzzles to engaging in intense battles. Embarking upon imaginary adventures within a fantasy setting, players in D&D use their creative minds to construct game characters and work together for a common goal.

And that’s exactly the creative thrill that Kyle Reaney, a senior at White Bear Lake Area High School, is seeking every Wednesday morning with about 20 other members participating in the school’s Dungeons and Dragons Club.

“I love everything about it, I love the role playing, the characters, and I always get to be creative,” Reaney says. “My imagination is the limit.”

Besides fighting dragons, orcs, goblins and other creatures in the tunnels of imaginary worlds, you’ll also find Reaney exploring the world of construction, through the Minnesota Trades Academy internship program. Reaney, along with teens from throughout the Twin Cities, participated in the Minnesota Trades Academy this past summer after receiving a flyer during a manufacturing class he was taking last spring.

Building and creating things has always been an important part of Reaney’s life. As a child, he says that he loved to build and destroy anything he could get his hands on while playing.

“I used a lot of Legos® when I was little,” Reaney recalls. “When I was younger, I didn’t know about all the careers in construction, but for a while I dreamed of becoming a blacksmith.”

Kyle Reaney finishes a series of math problems at Local 455, the pipefitters and steamfitters union. Reaney describes himself as a creative inventor who enjoys science and electricity.

Not sure of what else he would do in the summer, Reaney wanted to learn something new and to participate in an activity that was outside of his house. The Minnesota Trades Academy fit the bill.

One of the most motivating parts of the Minnesota Trades Academy program was gaining experience while getting paid through the internship. In recommending the program to his friend Dylan, Reaney saw this as a key selling point.

“If you want to work, gain valuable experience, earn money and spend your time outside of the house, then you should try this,” Reaney told Dylan.

Reaney did not know any of the other students from throughout the Twin Cities who participated in the Minnesota Trades Academy internship program this previous summer. Now he can say that he’s “made a lot of friends and I can name everyone on my team.”

During Reaney’s time with the Minnesota Trades Academy, a six-week internship, he was given the opportunity to tour construction sites and he learned about the benefits and pay for careers in construction.

“It really surprised me to see how many careers I could try out,” he says. “I also learned that the pay for many of the careers is pretty good.”

Learning New Skills

Reaney was given the opportunity to learn new skills at the Minnesota Trades Academy. For example, at an installation center, Reaney made a foam shield for his adventurous Dungeons and Dragons campaigns, and a foam phone for his little cousin Zoey.

“She is about five-years-old and I know she will love it,” he says.

The Minnesota Trades Academy provides interns with many memorable learning moments. For Reaney, one of those “Ah-Ha” moments was made while working with sheet metals.

“We made boxes that I thought were going to leak when water was poured into them, but it didn’t,” Reaney says. “I was stunned. It was constructed so perfectly that it worked.”

In school, Reaney, who will graduate in June 2020, had previously taken courses in the fields of engineering and manufacturing. “The manufacturing class really got my interest,” Reaney says. “We used laser cutters and made parts with the machines. I really liked that, because I learned about the use of electricity while also learning about manufacturing.”

During the Minnesota Trades Academy, Reaney put some of the skills learned in these courses to good use. Those experiences combined with learning about different construction trades careers has Reaney interested in further exploring the sheetmetal and electrical trades.

Support of Mom

Reaney’s mother has supported his interest in a career in construction from day one. Reaney would even say she has been “sometimes, a bit too supportive.” Reaney remembers his mom’s excitement when he got the Minnesota Trades Academy internship: “She was overjoyed when I got in.”

“My mom really wants me to be an electrician,” Reaney says, “She can see how much I am fascinated with electricity and she thinks I could be really good at it. Plus, they make good money.”

After exploring the different layers of construction during his internship with Minnesota Trades Academy, Reaney is now interested in taking a precision machinery class at White Bear Lake Area High School. A more advanced version of the manufacturing classes he took earlier.

Gretchen Harriman, the principal of White Bear Lake Area Learning Center sings the praises of the Minnesota Trades Academy. Harriman champions the program because she has seen the program change lives.

“I’ve seen students who weren’t sure what their path would be, really get connected,” Harriman says. “The follow-up that the Minnesota Trades Academy does is significant too.”

After completing the Minnesota Trades Academy program, Reaney now says that he’s definitely “considering construction as a career.”

“It was good for me to find out what I like to do and what I don’t like in a job,” Reaney says. “I also have learned a lot about where I want to work.”

Whether Reaney is completing an intense campaign in Dungeons & Dragons with friends or using skills learned from his Minnesota Trades Academy internship, he is always working towards advancing himself.

“Success means completing a goal and feeling good afterward, especially when you do the job perfectly,” Reaney says.

Interested in a career in construction?

Students who would like to learn more about careers in Minnesota’s construction industry should visit To learn more about the Minnesota Trades Academy and to apply for the program’s internship program for the summer of 2020, click here.

The Minnesota Trades Academy is supported through the generosity of the following organizations: the Construction Careers Foundation, Apprenticeship Coordinators Association of Minnesota (ACAM), City of Minneapolis/STEP UP Program, City of St. Paul Facilities Department, City of St. Paul/Right Track Program, City of St. Paul/HREEO, Kraus-Anderson Construction, M.A. Mortenson Co., McGough Construction Company, the Minnesota State Legislature, Minneapolis and St. Paul Building and Construction Trades, OPUS Foundation, PCL Construction, Ramsey County/U LEAD Program, Ryan Companies, Saint Paul Police Department, St. Paul Public Schools, and White Bear Lake Area Schools.