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First in the Family: Oakdale resident graduates high school, applies for a Career in Construction

By: Amanda Pedersen

Hard work and persistence still payoff. Justyn Lundgren, 20, will be the first person in his family to graduate from high school. But he will savor his graduation day even more because it was through his choices, hardwork and initiative which allowed him to walk across the stage.

Only a few years ago, Lundgren dropped out of high school because of poor grades and personal issues. Although he does not have his high school diploma in his hands, Lundgren is taking steps to earn his high school diploma through an Individual Education Program (IEP).

IEP’s give people the ability to go back to school to fulfill high school education requirements.

“I will be the first one in my family to graduate from high school, and that will mean a lot to me–it’s a huge honor,” Lundgren said.

Another way Lundgren is helping his family is by pursuing opportunities to build a career, such as through a paid internship with the Minnesota Trades Academy.

Justyn Lundgren is the first person in his family to graduate from high school. Lundgren’s dedication to his education and his determination to complete his degree have prepared him mentally for one of many career options in Minnesota’s competitive construction industry. (Photo Credit: Emily Sweeney)

Lundgren learned about the program through his career counselor in Oakdale and applied to explore different careers in construction.

“The Minnesota Trades Academy helped me out on my Individual Education Program actually,” said Lundgren. “It shows that I can meet and exceed expectations.”

Introduction to Construction

The Minnesota Trades Academy offers two different tracks for high school students to learn about the construction trades through hands-on experience during the summer months. Track I is a six-week introduction to construction career opportunities. Youth who participate in Track I can move onto Track II, a nine-week trade specialization course. The completion of both tracks can set a student up to launch a career in the construction industry, beginning with a registered apprenticeship with a Minnesota building trades union for those who are 18 and have earned a high school diploma or GED.

Lundgren was excited to spend his summer outside while getting paid as an intern with the Minnesota Trades Academy. He visited a number of apprenticeship training centers to practice hands-on skills needed for a career in construction.

Interns also construct different mini-projects to find out which trades they prefer.

“The Minnesota Trades academy showed me a lot of different job opportunities,” Lundgren said. “I’m now confident that I want to join Local 49 (International Union of Operating Engineers) after receiving my high school diploma.”

While touring at the Local 49 training center, Lundgren had the chance to drive bobcats and other large machinery.

“I felt the most comfortable in this trade because I’ve operated heavy machinery in the past,” said Lundgren. “Through Minnesota Trades Academy, I am a step ahead because I have completed my OSHA 10 training and received a certificate.”

Lundgren was surprised that many of the machines had great air conditioning systems and radios.

“I was thinking to myself, well — that’s all I need, count me in!,” Lundgren said.

Future with Construction
Through a registered apprenticeship with Local 49, or any of Minnesota’s other building trade unions, Lundgren will earn while he learns and will also receive a considerable amount of benefits including health care and a pension.

“One of my goals for the future is to visit every state in the U.S.,” Lundgren said. “With a career in construction, I will be able to do that.”

To learn more about how the Minnesota Trades Academy can help you learn more about careers in construction, visit