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Passion for Cooking Leads to a Possible Career in Construction

By: Amanda Pedersen

Life often offers its own twists and turns. You dream of one thing one day, only to find that it opens a door to something you never considered before.

So it was for Daunte Greyhair, 19, who thought that his passion was cooking. He dreamed of becoming a chef and owning a restaurant. He planned on attending culinary school after high school, but after getting a paid summer internship experience with the Minnesota Trades Academy, Greyhair is now considering a career in construction.

Greyhair transferred high schools and planned on taking cooking classes. When he went to sign up for classes, he found out all of the cooking classes were full. So, he figured he’d try woodshop instead.

Greyhair loved the class and the hands-on projects.

“Woodshop was my favorite because I got to build stuff with my hands,” Greyhair said. “It’s funny because I’m not good at math, but when I’m in woodshop — math comes naturally.”

For years, Greyhair dreamed of becoming a chef and leading his own restaurant. But after finding out all of the culinary classes were full, Greyhair signed up for a woodshop class; he loved it. (Photocredit: Emily Sweeney)

In his final year at Irondale High School, Greyhair was a standout student in woodshop. He eventually become the teacher’s assistant.

“During class, if the teacher was busy helping a student, I would walk around and help everyone else out,” Greyhair said. “Sometimes I would even teach kids older than me how to use the machines or measure for different wood cuts.”

Greyhair spent so much time in woodshop, he even figured out how to work all the machines.

“Pretty soon, I knew the machines well enough that I could fix them too,” Greyhair said. “Half my classes happened in the woodshop, so by the end of my time there, I could look at a machine or watch it operate and know exactly what was wrong with it.”

Learning New Skills at Minnesota Trades Academy

Greyhair decided to do the Minnesota Trades Academy internship to learn more about different careers in Minnesota’s construction industry.

The Minnesota Trades Academy offers two different tracks for 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.

“At the Minnesota Trades Academy, you learn about different tools and practice hands-on skills,” Greyhair said. “This part wasn’t new for me because of my past experience with Woodshop, but what was new for me was all the union tours.”

While at the Minnesota Trades Academy, interns visit up to 16 different apprenticeship training centers where they receive training and supervision from construction professionals.

“Visiting the union training centers was helpful because you get to see how each trade is different,” said Greyhair. “It also helps you decide what career might be right for you.”

During Greyhair’s visit to the Boilermaker’s union, Local 647, training center, he learned that boilermakers sometimes need to finish projects 200 to 1,000 feet up in the air. The interns got to put on harnesses and climb along beams that were 25 feet high as they learned to balance and be comfortable with heights.

“Everyone else was clinging onto the beams or nervous about the heights, but it didn’t bother me at all,” said Greyhair. “It was a like a whole new way to see the world up there and I was super calm and could walk around without holding on to anything.”

While participating in the Minnesota Trades Academy, interns also construct mini projects to learn if they might want to pursue a construction trades apprenticeship after high school.

Narrowing Career Interest

After exploring the many opportunities that come with working in a construction trade through a union, Greyhair knows he wants to pursue a career in construction.

“I found out I had a talent for building things and when I saw the benefits and pay that comes with a career in construction, I decided ‘yes,’ this is a career I want to pursue,” Greyhair said. “I’m good at this and I know I want to do this for a job, I know I’ll be set for life if I can join a union and focus on my career.”

Through his experience visiting and trying out different construction careers through the Minnesota Trades Academy, Greyhair wants to pursue a union apprenticeship as an ironworker.

“I’m the only one from the Minnesota Trades Academy class who wanted to be an ironworker,” said Greyhair. “I love the trade because they build the skeletons of buildings, which I think is pretty cool.”

Interested in a Career in Construction?

After Greyhair’s paid internship through the Minnesota Trades Academy, he recommends the program to his friends.

“I keep telling my friends that before they apply for college, they should consider joining the Minnesota Trades Academy to learn about construction through hands-on experience,” said Greyhair. “Don’t say no to something unless you’ve tried it–you could be really good at it and enjoy the work.”

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