Learn2Build demolishes Gender Stigmas in the construction trades

By Karin Ellefson

Before signing up for the Learn2Build summer construction experience program, 12-year-old Aylli Alford had never considered that she might enjoy working hands-on with tools and supplies.

Aylli pieces together her marshmallow launcher. The 12-year-old helped her peers with the project and said, “measuring isn’t scary to me because I know I built it right when I can show people how the pieces fit together.”

Aylli, a 7th grader from Washington Technology Magnet School has always had a passion for drawing. She excels in art class and spends her free time with a sketchbook in her hands. She frequently draws characters from movies she watches.

ThroughLearn2Build, Aylli has pushed her creativity and curiosity about building to the next level by seeing what construction is all about.“My mom helped me get signed up for this [Learn2Build] when we saw it on a flyer from school,” Aylli said. “I’m really glad we did. Everything has been so fun!”

Learn2Build is a program that exposes students in grades 4-9 around the Twin Cities to the construction building trades industry. By combining fun and games with Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) students are introduced to career paths such as pipefitting, civil engineering, plumbing, painting and more. Their time with the program is spent doing exciting activities focused on the construction trades while meeting other students who share similar interests.

The students participating in this two-week Learn2Build camp had the opportunity to visit the Saint Paul Community & Technical College and its Plumbing Lab, where apprentices studying plumbing learn the trade through hands-on experience. With the help of a few plumbers from the Plumbers and Gasfitters Union, Local 34, Aylli and the other students got to measure, cut and construct their own marshmallow launchers out of PVC pipes.

“I never really thought I enjoyed math or science, but Learn2Build has made me rethink that a little,” Aylli said. “I love being able to work with my hands and be creative.”

At Learn2Build, Aylli measures and cuts PVC pipe. She used real construction materials and tools to create her own take-home marshmallow launcher.

One of the main goals of Learn2Build is to direct more young students, especially girls, to careers in STEM and the construction trades to build a more diverse workforce in the future.

Aylli, along with a handful of other girls that signed up for Learn2Build, are seeing both men and women working alongside each other in a variety of construction-related trades through this summer program.

“We’re excited to see our summer program growing,” said Learn2Build director, Mary DesJarlais. “It’s exciting to see so many girls in this class, we are working on establishing more programs for girls interested in STEM, it’s good for them to see that women can work in construction and the trades and be successful.”

Along with Learn2Build, schools across Minnesota are beginning to implement more classes that can prepare students for post graduation plans that don’t include a traditional four-year university. Schools such as where Aylli attends, Washington Technology Magnet School, pride themselves in specializing in BioSMART (Biological Science, Math, Academic Rigor, and Technology) courses, to give students a more diverse education.

“Now I know there are jobs like this out there, I might consider taking classes in school that are construction based,” Aylli said. “I could even be able to help out at home with fixing stuff now!”

Interested in a career in construction?

Students who would like to learn more about careers in Minnesota’s construction industry should visit https://constructioncareers.org. To sign up for the next Learn2Build program or for more information on it, visit https://constructioncareers.org/programs/ or contact Mary DesJarlais.

Learn2Build is supported by the generosity of the Construction Careers Foundation and the OPUS Group.