Originally published in WDIO News on February 11, 2023
The International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 49 is the largest construction union in Minnesota. The Local 49 training center partnered with Minnesota Virtual Academy to offer the Operating Engineering pathway program. On Saturday Feb. 11th, they offered a hands-on learning experience with their heavy equipment for students wanting to learn more about the trades.
Kate DesChamps, is an Operating Engineering Pathways Instructor at the Local 49 and a Minnesota Virtual Academy Instructor. She talked about why more high school students are becoming interested in the trades. “I’ve been teaching for a long time before I took this job and I always taught, a career based course. And so what I like to tell students is college isn’t for everyone.” DesChamps said.
DesChamps also said the coming out of the Pandemic made a lot of students realize how exciting trade school can be at the Local 49. “And the biggest part is, if you knew, especially after COVID, where you probably spent most of your day at a computer in one spot, because that’s all there was for education; that might have made you realize that is not for me. There is the level of intelligence I have seen in this industry, in this building, for the apprenticeship. I mean, it challenges any other instructor or college instructor I’ve ever had.” DesChamps said.
The Local 49 training center also helps educate students about the potential benefits with continuing their trade by becoming a journeyman. “Another thing I like to tell students all the time is once you go into a trade, let’s talk about health insurance. Let’s talk about a pension. These are things that you may not get with a college degree depending on which avenue you go through. So, I mean, it just really opens the door.” DesChamps said.
Hanna Beldo, a senior at Evelth Gilbert Secondary school, talked about her interest in the Local 49’s program. “Since I was little, I’ve always been interested in this. And it just is a cool idea that like me being a girl coming into a mainly male career just seems fun. Don’t be scared and shy or anything. Just go for it and give it a like a chance and try it out.” Beldo said.
Another senior, Robert Michels, from Mabel-Canton High School talked about how welcoming the Local 49 training center is. “They really teach you, you know, how to do it. And then they’re right there to show you what you’re doing so you could feel for them. A lot of people are in it for the money. I mean, but, you know, it’s the experience. And you see you learn a lot of things along the way and meet a lot of new people.”Michels said.
Students can earn four semesters of high school credit while receiving the training necessary to enter the local 49 apprenticeship program. The program is free to ninth- through 12th-graders enrolled in a Minnesota public high school. More than 160 students are currently enrolled, and graduates of the program have gone on to begin careers as equipment operators.
For more information on the Local 49 operating engineering pathway program you can look here https://local49.org/pathway/.
For another story about trade school opportunities you can look here https://www.wdio.com/front-page/top-stories/a-local-company-is-helping-to-fund-a-new-learning-course-at-superior-high-school/.
To learn more about Minnesota Virtual Academy, visit https://mnva.k12.com/