It was 1975 the last time Tom Thompson walked the halls of Roosevelt High School in South Minneapolis. Some 42 years later, he’s back to talk to juniors and seniors about the work he’s been doing since graduation – working as a heavy equipment operator with the International Union of Operating Engineers, helping construction Minnesota’s highways, bridges, businesses, schools, stadiums and more.
Thompson and eight other blue-collar, private-sector union works – carpenters, electricians, iron workers, concrete finishers and glaziers – gathered in a second floor classroom for an hour-long speed networking event through a partnership with the AchieveMpls Career Readiness Initiative program. A dozen students spent five minutes with each union worker, asking questions ranging from “Have you ever been shocked?” to the electrician to “When will you get to retire?” to the iron worker to “I graduate in May, how soon can I start?” to the carpenter.
The union construction and building trades workers are a part of Elevate Minnesota, a campaign that raises awareness of the contributions union workers make every day across Minnesota, from the structures they raise to the communities they donate to and volunteer with every day. At Roosevelt High School, they introduced a career path that many young people don’t often hear about, but one that is regularly hiring and paying livable wages, with no-debt education and training available – not something most college-bound students can expect. And as for the students, all they wanted was more time to talk to the visiting workers.
Careers in the construction industry are expected to grow 13 percent over the next seven years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a rate that’s greater than most other occupations. These job market opportunities, combined with an annual additional after-tax income of $7,720 compared to nonunion construction workers according to the Midwest Economic Policy Institute, are just a few of the reasons Elevate Minnesota wants to make sure America’s future workers are introduced to building and construction trades early on. Learn more about union apprentice programs here.
Thanks to Elevate Minnesota for their partnership in this event and permission to re-post their blog