April 2, 2023

Contributed article

St. Paul, Minn. (April 13, 2017) — Students who are graduating in 2017 graduates can get training to work for Twin Cities areas Southwest and Blue Line Extension light rail transit projects, according to a press release Thursday from the Metropolitan Council.

The press release said that extending the two light rail transit lines in the Twin Cities will create 14,000 construction jobs. This creates opportunities for job seekers who are looking to start a new career, increase their pay scale or are graduating soon from high school.

To help applicants develop the skills for these construction jobs, Metropolitan Council and its Southwest Project Office are working with several organizations to offer 10 weeks of union-led training for up to 80 people, and six weeks of training for 10 soon-to-be high school graduates. The apprenticeship preparatory training, known as the LRT BUILD Program is worth up to $4,000 per person. Students must have a high school diploma by June or a GED, be at least 18 and currently employed no more than part-time.

“The goal is to prepare people to become apprentices at the end of the 10-week programs,” said Jon Vang, a Metropolitan Council equal opportunity consultant assigned to the two LRT projects. “We are trying to add workers in preparation for construction of the Southwest and Blue Line Extension LRT Projects.”

The first 10-week training round begins April 17 for 40 unemployed and underemployed adults. The second 10-week training program for an additional 40 people begins June 5, and the application deadline is May 26. For 2017 high school graduates, their six-week course begins July 10 and the application deadline is June 23.  To apply for either the 10-week or six-week program and learn about other requirements, visit: https://metrocouncil.org/swlrt/LRTBUILD and look under the “How to Apply” section for upcoming information session dates and times. For more information, email [email protected] or call 651-308-8554.

Unions designed the training programs

The program is offered in partnership with the McKnight Foundation, Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council, Construction Careers Foundation, Twin Cities R!SE, North Hennepin Community College and Hennepin-Carver Workforce Development Board. The training program is modeled after Metro Transit’s bus mechanic and LRT mechanic training programs.

“As we developed this program, we brought in the unions and asked what do you need? They helped us design the program,” Vang said.

For construction of Southwest LRT, an extension of METRO Green Line, and the Blue Line Extension, contractors will need to hire laborers, carpenters, ironworkers, masons and crane and heavy equipment operators to break ground and build tunnels, bridges, retaining walls and stations.

Training will occur at Twin Cities R!SE, North Hennepin Community College, union facilities

In the first four weeks of the 10-week training program, students will attend Twin Cities R!SE, a program  in north Minneapolis that helps individuals achieve long-term job success, for two half-days a week to develop  communication, interviewing and time management skills  and identify their strengths that they can leverage in a new career. Diversion Solutions will work with people with revoked or suspended driver’s licenses to reinstate them through their Driver’s License Reinstatement Program.

Twin Cities R!SE focuses on “the soft skills that employers don’t have time to teach. We make sure the individual who goes through our program has good communications skills,” said Vincent M. Fuller, the special projects manager who teaches personal empowerment for the 22-year-old organization. 

It’s an about-face from the organization’s early days when they focused on teaching hard skills and found their participants were losing their jobs within the first six months of employment because they lacked soft skills, such as self-awareness, self-control, verbal and nonverbal communication skills and assertiveness, Fuller said.  When they switched to teaching soft skills, “we improved the one-year retention rate for people.”

In the next four weeks, students attend North Hennepin Community College Monday through Friday afternoons to learn construction basics and construction math, receive 10 hours of Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) safety training and learn how to read blueprints.

Over the last two weeks, they will visit various union training facilities for hands-on learning and meet union representatives and contractors. One such facility trainees will visit is known as the “sandbox,” which is run by Local 49 of the International Union of Operating Engineers in Hinckley where they will get a chance to operate cranes.

For the soon-to-be high school graduates, their six-week training program will consist of four weeks of core construction training in a classroom at North Hennepin Community College and two weeks of hands-on learning at the construction training facilities.

Depending on the apprenticeship program that the graduates enter, wages for apprentices in key construction fields start at more than $18 an hour. 

“Becoming an apprentice will help them get work on other construction projects that could lead to work on one of the LRT extension projects” Vang said.

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