Cecelia thought about her future often. She had always planned on going to college but needed to make ends meet, so she began working as a pizza delivery driver. While thinking about her next steps, she heard about Building Strong Communities, a multi-trade apprenticeship readiness program that introduces women, people of color and veterans to the building and construction trades.  

After applying and being accepted to the Building Strong Communities program, she found that she liked the laborers union, “there is so much to learn, you never get bored,” Cecelia said. After becoming a laborer apprentice this summer Cecelia says “I’ve gained a lot of self-confidence being in the apprenticeship program. I am learning how to do my job and I’m good at it. As a laborer, I learn lots of different things. Once I’m done with my apprenticeship and become a journeyman, I’ll be very versatile.”

In the first few months of her apprenticeship, Cecelia was able to earn enough money to get her own apartment and begin saving money. “Besides a great income and learning how to do things, the apprenticeship program has given me a career and plan for life.”


Derek has worked as a server, restaurant manager and as a conveyor belt technician in mines and in boat yards. “When I was a working at the mines and boat yards, I saw building and construction trades working in the field and heard about the benefits and job security, and I was interested in learning more,” Derek said. In learning about the construction trades through a program called Building Strong Communities, a multi-craft apprenticeship readiness program, Derek decided to become and apprentice with the Iron Workers.

Derek’s favorite part of being an apprentice so far is placing structural beams, the backbones of tall buildings. “I like being in the air and connecting the structural iron beams, I like to help give crane signals on where to place the beams and bolting them in place.” In the future, Derek hopes to be able to take advanced courses and become a foreman.

Apprenticeship programs are a pathway for a lifelong career. Previously, Derek’s concerns were for his future and caring for his four-year-old son. “Before I joined the apprenticeship program, I didn’t have a savings plan. Having my son really made me think about the future. I will have enough hours to retire when I’m 60,” with a pension and a sense of security for the future.

He says that he wishes that he started in the trades when he was younger and encourages people who are interested in a career in the building trades to go to a union hall, meet people and talk with them about the job. Derek shared that “the first year is hard, but you build relationships with your crew and others in the union which is important.”


Nicole was working 2 jobs to make ends meet for her family. “No one wants to leave work to turn around and go back to work,” Nicole stated. She heard about the apprenticeship readiness program Building Strong Communities, a program that introduces women, people of color and veterans to the building and construction trades and prepares them for the industry. For Nicole, it sounded like a good way to get a foot in the door in construction trades.

After finishing her apprenticeship readiness program, Nicole was placed with Lunda Construction as an International Union of Operating Engineers 49 apprentice and is training to be a crane operator. “It’s the most fun thing I’ve done as an apprentice, it’s a rush. At first its intimidating, but then as you get more experience – you realize, I can do this!”

Nicole’s two daughters are proud of her, and she says being able to provide for them and not being stressed about bills is the best feeling in the world. “I am earning while I am learning, which has enabled me to buy a truck and to feel more secure about taking care of my family.” Apprentices earn a family sustaining wage while they learn their trade.

“My daughters like the fact that I’m doing what I love, and that I drive a big truck and I work with cranes. As a retired 49er, my Dad is proud that I’m following in his footsteps and he’s proud that I have a career.”

West St. Paul

After turning thirty, Adrian (second from right in the photo) was looking for a different quality of life and decided he wanted a career. After being a server for 4 years, he stared thinking about health care and retirement benefits, something his job as a server was not providing him. “When I was younger, I didn’t really think about how important health care and retirement benefits were,” Adrian said.

He had heard about a program that introduces women, people of color and veterans to the building and construction trades called Building Strong Communities, a multi-trade apprenticeship readiness program and decided to give it a try. “I didn’t know I wanted to be a carpenter until I joined Building Strong Communities. Being a union carpentry apprentice is the best thing that ever happened to me.”

For Adrian, stepping on a jobsite is life changing. “The minute you are on the site, you start earning for your retirement and you get health care while you are learning the trade in the field. We start at over $21.00 an hour, and I’ve been able to buy a new car with my earnings.”

Adrian’s family is very proud of his career choice, and Adrian can feel a change in himself as well. “I get up before work and go for a run with my dog. My family has seen the change in me. I’m so proud of what I do.”