Roosevelt Student finds Empowerment, Independence in Construction Internship

By: Emily Sweeney

Omelkeir Muhumed’s name means “bringing goodness” and she does that often when she leads by example, as an older sister, as a student and on the construction site.

The Roosevelt 10th grader is the oldest of eight children in her family. Her youngest brother is 10 months old.

“I always help out with my brothers and sisters,” Muhumed said. “I look out for them and help watch them.”

Muhumed’s patience and natural leadership skills make her a great teacher and her peers attest to that.

“People ask me for homework help and sometimes I help them with social studies or science,” Muhumed said.

But this summer Muhumed wanted to lead in a different way. She was going to be the first person in her family to work in the construction trades through a paid construction internship with the Minnesota Trades Academy.

Muhumed chips paint off an old garage in South Minneapolis. Minnesota Trades Academy site leads said Muhumed “soaked up every possible opportunity to learn and try new things.” Photo Credit: Emily Sweeney

“I’ve never done any of this before and it’s so cool,” Muhumed said. “I am even getting class credit for this internship at my school.”

The Minnesota Trades Academy offers two different tracks for students to learn about the construction trades through hands-on experience. 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 following summer. The completion of both tracks can sets 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 a high school diploma or GED.

Doing something new by herself did not intimidate Muhumed. She’s accomplished a lot own her own before.

“My family and I moved from Ethiopia to Minnesota when I was 10,” Muhumed said. “It was hard when I first came here because I had to learn English while going to school and both of my parents had to work, so no one was at home when I was getting out of school and trying to do my homework.”

This fall marks an academic milestone for Muhumed. She anticipates finishing up her English as a Second Language courses. While for many people being fluent in two languages is a challenging and rare accomplishment, Muhumed speaks four.

“English is my third language, I’m learning Spanish now, too,” she said. “I learned Arabic when I attended schools in Ethiopia, but I grew up speaking Somali.”

While Muhumed did not have experience with construction, she had perseverance and a willingness to try new things on her own. Reflecting on her internship with the Minnesota Trades Academy, Muhumed sees that she was always capable of doing construction work.

“I used to play with computer programs that let me design and create buildings,” Muhumed said. “I’ve always liked being able to create things and being artistic.”

Muhumed primes and paints the garage. She related her experience with the Minnesota Trades Academy to her hobbies of drawing and designing, where she can be creative. Photo Credit: Karin Ellefson

Muhumed’s favorite project

During her time with the Minnesota Trades Academy, Muhumed learned to use tools that she had never seen before. Her favorite project so far was a group partnership with Habitat for Humanity.

“Our (MTA Crew) team does everything together,” Muhumed said, “At the Habitat for Humanity site, we installed two windows in a house, and so we could give a family a home.”

It’s the tangible work and rewarding feeling of helping her community that motivated Muhumed to consider a career in construction.

“I am not sure what I want to do after high school yet, but I think I will go into the construction and building trades,” Muhumed said. “I am definitely considering it now because Minnesota Trades Academy let me see the different careers and projects I can work on.”

Construction is for women, too

Muhumed is one of the few girls in the Minnesota Trades Academy internship program.

“I thought there was going to be a lot of girls interning with the Minnesota Trades Academy and I was surprised when there weren’t,” Muhumed said. “I think more girls would love it if they joined, they might just be nervous that it would be too hard for them or that they have to lift a lot of weight but that’s not true.”

To other women who may not be sure if construction is for them Muhumed offers this advice:

“Girls, I know you can do it, just give it a try,” Muhumed said.

Interested in a career in construction?

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.