Brock Keaton Jr. – First Year Local 49 Apprentice

After graduating with a four-year degree, Brock Keaton Jr. is now in his first year as a Local 49 apprentice and says that “this has been the best career choice.”

Throughout high school Brock felt his only option was to attend a four-year college.

“I wish I would have known back in high school that construction was a successful career path. I’m now making more than I ever have before. I used to search for jobs and now the jobs search for me,” he said.

Brock was first introduced to the construction field by learning about the Building Strong Communities program, which is an apprenticeship readiness program sponsored by the union construction industry, MN DOT, MN DOLI, and other construction related organizations. Through this program he was able to study different construction trades, but quickly found that a career as an operating engineer was the best fit for him.

“The Operating Engineers jumped out at me because I wanted to be able to not only operate equipment, but be a part of building highways, roads, bridges, and homes,” he said.

His first project he worked on was the Southwest Light Rail with EJM Pipe Services.

“Working on the light rail my first week was intense, but I learned so much from everyone,” he said. These guys know so much and I respect them a lot. Every day is a new day and I love learning more.”

Brock now works for Kraemer North America in Duluth, and while he is early in his career, he said that becoming a heavy equipment operating has completely turned his life around.

“Local 49 and the Building Strong Communities program was life-changing. I completed the program and now I’m actually working in the field, and it all happened so fast. This is the best job I’ve ever had and I know this will be my life long career.”

For more stories like Brock’s visit and for more information on Building Strong Communities visit