Minnesota Trades Academy Interns Mentor St. Paul Learn2Build Students

Minnesota Trades Academy (MTA) interns from St. Paul spend their summer getting paid to work on real construction projects and touring union apprenticeship training centers to prepare for a career in construction.

Most of the interns have taken construction, welding or shop classes in high school and join the Minnesota Trades Academy to continue to develop their skills and learn from construction professionals. However, this summer, a cohort of St. Paul MTA interns had the chance to become construction experts and mentor middle school students taking part in Central High School’s Learn2Build summer camp.

“Our goal is to challenge our interns every day, whether it’s learning a new tool or practicing a skill such as measuring and blueprint reading,” said Construction Careers Foundation Program Director Lindsay Tallman. “Interns have many preferred learning styles, whether it be tactile, auditory or spatial, and working in the trades means being able to learn in many ways. Partnering with Learn2Build gave our St. Paul interns a special opportunity to go from being the student to being the expert and demonstrating their skills to a younger class.”

Learn2Build Program Manager Mary DesJarlais said witnessing the partnership between Minnesota Trades Academy interns and Learn2Build students fulfilled a huge educational goal for the greater Twin Cities nonprofit, Construction Careers Foundation, which has developed both programs individually over the last 10 years.

“This was a full circle moment for the Construction Career Foundation’s programming efforts,” DesJarlais said. “We watched MTA interns take the skills they’ve practiced every day for more than a month and with confidence convey their knowledge to the middle school students. It’s awesome to see how quickly they took to being role models for our students.”

Minnesota Trades Academy interns and Learn2Build students together built three-legged stools, which entailed following a blueprint, measuring, and cutting legs for the stool, sanding the legs and mixing concrete for the seat.

“We just stepped back and watched our interns lead the teams and they did a great job,” St. Paul MTA Trainer Bob Prifrel said. “It’s great to see our interns — the next generation of construction professionals — telling the young kids about their career goals and the benefits of joining MTA. We hope to see the Learn2Build students in our program in just a few years.”

Representation in the Construction Trades

Bringing together both programs fostered new conversations between the high school and middle school students.

“It’s different when an adult is talking to a young person about construction, sometimes a professional career seems so far away,” Tallman said. “Listening to the students connect with each other, I hear them talking about what they like most about construction, and what careers appeal to them, and of course, they bond over TV shows, hobbies, and sports. The conversations are candid, and we can see our younger students love being with the big kids.”

DesJarlais added that Learn2Build students create projects that mirror real world construction sites but having MTA mentors present sets a behavior example for the younger students to follow.

“Learn2Build students see MTA interns showing up on time, following directions and taking turns using tools. Our students are inspired by them and follow their behavior because they want to be engaged in all the projects,” DesJarlais said.  “What’s even more impactful is they work with students that look like them, grow up in the same neighborhood, and play the same sports — MTA interns are more than just teachers for the day – they’re real role models.”

A Program Partnership for the Future

Both Learn2Build students and MTA interns reacted positively to the integrated program model.

“This was a valuable experience for our younger students, and we plan to have the programs intersect even more next summer with our locations in St. Paul, Minneapolis, White Bear Lake and Brooklyn Center,” DesJarlais said.

Bring Construction Careers Foundation Activities to your Classroom 

Interested in bringing construction career programming to your school? Connect with Construction Careers Foundation Program Director Lindsay Tallman at lindsay@constructioncareers.org.