Sixty-one students, including potential 49ers, graduated May 5 from Building Strong Communities, a multi-trade apprenticeship readiness program that focuses on preparing women, veterans and people of color for careers in the construction industry. They were honored in a ceremony at North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park.
The 12-week program includes a construction industry overview, union-developed curriculum, hands-on experiences and more. Eight of the students also participated in Local 49’s Apprenticeship Readiness Training, which features operator-specific content.
The joy on students’ faces at the ceremony was a reminder that for many, the opportunity to join the trades is potentially lifechanging.
That’s true for Minneapolis resident Latoya McKinney, who worked 36 years in customer service and has an eight-year-old daughter. McKinney was so determined to complete the program that she showed up for the first day of Local 49’s Apprenticeship Readiness Training in a U-Haul pickup, because her car was still in the shop.
“I think the 49ers will be a great fit for me, because I have many different options,” she said.
She was grinning as she walked across the graduation stage.
Another Building Strong Communities graduate, Sandstone resident Amanda Olsen, is also looking to become a 49er. Her dad was a longtime trade union member, and Olsen knows the difference a fair wage and good benefits can make in someone’s life.
“Building Strong Communities has helped me a lot,” she said. “We got introduced to all the different unions and what they do, so we can figure out which one we are most attracted to.”
William Leonard, of Minneapolis, already knew he wanted to join Local 49, but he said Building Strong Communities better prepared him for the industry. He said the emotional intelligence component of the program was helpful, and he’d recommend the program.
Leonard hopes to be on a jobsite soon and continue learning.
“As long as I’m working, that’s what I really care about,” he said.
Watching students graduate was also thrilling for Rick Martagon, executive director of Building Strong Communities.
“It just makes you super happy for them, knowing what’s in store for their next 25 years,” he said. “You have a lot of fun on the job. They’re going to be on some of the biggest projects in the state. And they’re building our state.”
Martagon said around half of the Building Strong Community students this semester already had a job lined up on graduation day, and contractors were present after the ceremony to make further connections.
“We’re expanding opportunity and providing people with a means to economic security, health security, and a good, middle-income, sustainable life,” Martagon said.
Learn more about the Building Strong Communities program at buildingstrong.org.