Passion for Helping Others found in Construction Career

By: Amanda Pedersen

When Riley Wolf was a child, he wanted to be a firefighter. He even signed up for a volunteer program at age 16.

But now, at age 20, Wolf is considering a career in construction.

For Wolf, handwork runs in his family. With a career in construction, Wolf looks forward to providing for a family of his own someday and being able to retire comfortably. (Photo Credit: Emily Sweeney)

“Construction is a lot like being a firefighter — its manual work but you have to think on your feet. And you’re often outdoors,” Wolf said. “Plus, you also get to help your community by building it.”

Wolf, a hard-working graduate of Mounds View High School, has now participated in the Minnesota Trades Academy two years in a row, while working a second job at Wal-Mart.

“I learned about Minnesota Trades Academy through my school’s Career Life Transition (CLT) program,” said Wolf.

The Career Life Transition program is a community-based initiative between the Mounds View and Roseville Public Schools to assist young adults to prepare for the future.

“I’m really proud of how I got into the Minnesota Trades Academy program and worked hard to learn new things,” said Wolf. “I had a recruiter asking me about going into the military, but I knew that’s not where I would feel comfortable.”

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 years old or older and have earned a high school diploma or GED.

Wolf enjoyed the Minnesota Trades Academy Track II internship because of the hands-on preparation it offers.

“School is kind of hard for me because I have ADHD,” Wolf said. “I like working in construction because I don’t like sitting down for too long. I like that I get to stay active throughout the day.”

While participating in the Minnesota Trades Academy, interns construct mini projects and try out numerous parts of the construction process to learn if they might want to pursue a construction trades apprenticeship after high school.

In addition, interns visit up to 16 different apprenticeship-training centers operated by various Minnesota building trades unions where they receive training and supervision from construction pros.

During Wolf’s time with the Minnesota Trades Academy, he visited unions where he learned about different construction trades, took safety and inspection training, and learned how different construction sites operate.

Wolf toured local unions where he practiced the skills needed for different trades work. Wolf and another Minnesota Trades Academy intern practiced measuring and bending pipe. (Photo Credit: Emily Sweeney)

He also learned about the different tests that he would be required to take to be accepted into a trade union apprenticeship program.

Constructing a House from the Ground Up

For Wolf, the Minnesota Trades Academy Track II internship program was invaluable because it helped him gain experience and insight into the building trades.

Wolf has already applied his building skills from the Minnesota Trades Academy internship. He’s helped build a real house from the ground up for his final construction occupations class project through the 916 program at Century College.

Century College’s 916 program is a combination of career and technical education classes that allow high school students to receive college credit and advance themselves in the postsecondary education system while building marketable skills for future employment.

In building the house, Wolf personally worked on roofing, siding, framing, window clinging, and understanding blueprints.

“When it was complete, we hosted an open house where people toured the inside and got to see all our work,” said Wolf. “The best feeling was when a family actually bought the house.”

Support from Family

Wolf comes from a hardworking family. His father works in auto body repair and his mother is a paraprofessional. His family is very supportive of his interest in construction and they’re happy that Wolf is taking the initiative to work toward a career.

His parents have shaped him into a hard worker from a young age. “I didn’t get a phone or a car until I got a job, so I keep a good head on my shoulders and always push for that next step,” Wolf said.

“My parents don’t want me living in their house until I’m 30 years old,” Wolf added. “They want me to succeed and have my own things and space that I’ve worked for.”

After Wolf’s time interning with the Minnesota Trades academy, he is considering a career in the construction industry as a laborer because of apprenticeship opportunities and the variety of work that laborers do.

Laborers work in almost every area of construction, including building highways and roads, environmental remediation, mainline pipelines, distribution, landscaping and commercial cleaning.

“Apprenticeship programs are great because you work and go to school at the same time,” Wolf said. “That’s perfect for me. I’ve told one of my friends about my experience at the Minnesota Trades Academy and am helping him figure out who to talk to and how to apply.”

Interested in a career in construction?

Wolf dreams of having a family and his own house – – maybe even building his own house someday.

“If you’re a hard worker and you show up, you can definitely succeed in the trades. The Minnesota Trades Academy can help you find a career,” said Wolf.

Students who would like to learn more about careers in Minnesota’s construction industry should visit ConstructionCareers.org. 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.