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Somali Teen Sees a Future in the Construction Trades

Alden puts the finishing touches on her Track I team’s Minneapolis garage site project. Since starting her internship with the Minnesota Trades Academy, Alden has completed five different building and construction-trades related projects in the Twin Cities. Photo Credit:Karin Ellefson

By: Karin Ellefson

Samira Alden wanted to push herself and try something new, so she signed up for the Minnesota Trades Academy.

The Minnesota Trades Academy is a paid summer construction internship experience for selected Twin Cities area high school youth. Offering two different tracks, students learn about the construction trades through hands-on experiences. 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 in the following summer. The completion of both tracks set up students with a solid start in the construction industry, which can lead to an apprenticeship straight out of the program for those who are 18 and have a high school diploma or GED.

Alden lives in Bloomington with her mom, dad and five sisters and attends South High School in Minneapolis where she will be a junior this fall. At 16 years old, she is one of the oldest siblings in her family, which means she has a tool belt full of responsibility in helping her family.

“None of my friends or family have ever done anything like this before,” Alden said. “When I tell them about what projects we have been doing, they don’t believe me.”

Alden learned about the program from Step-Up, an organization that assists Minneapolis youth with college and career readiness. With no experience in the trades, but a whole lot of curiosity, she applied and was accepted into the Minnesota Trades Academy this past spring.

In Track I, high school students test out a few different trades over the summer while visiting multiple construction career facilities. Students can choose to learn about several construction career paths with the program, such as carpentry, drywall and pipefitting, Alden decided to try out the construction trade route.

“I wanted to challenge myself and try out construction even though I have never done it before,” Alden said. “With the Minnesota Trades Academy, I have been able to learn about many different construction careers, one of these could be my future job.”

The first week of the program consisted of learning construction safety and becoming familiar with the different tools she could use on the job, along with the safety measures with which she, and the other interns, must adhere. With her group, Alden and the other interns have put their new knowledge to work by installing windows, building chairs and learning how to strip, sand and paint a building. Before the Minnesota Trades Academy, she had never touched a nail-gun; now she is using it like a pro.

Alden receives a dedication award from site lead, Philip O’Neill, at the Minnesota Trades Academy graduation ceremony on August 16. Alden held perfect attendance throughout her six-week internship with the Minnesota Trades Academy’s. Photo Credit: Emily Sweeney

“Sometimes I have no idea what I’m doing, but our leaders help me and my team learn on the job and become comfortable using the tools,” Alden said. “It definitely keeps things interesting and it is nice to get started and get to work right away.”

With a love of hands-on work and being with people, Alden has had fun and kept an open mind with every new job she encounters. She is having so much fun, in fact, that she plans on applying to the Minnesota Trades Academy next summer to participate in Track II. She will also sign up for a few construction-based classes at South High School this school year.

“I’m still thinking about what I’ll do after I graduate high school in two years,” Alden said. “I definitely think construction is right for me, though.”

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.