Sarah Lechowich, senior director of the Construction Careers Foundation, is overseeing the launch of a new mobile app designed to encourage high school students to become Minnesota’s future construction workers.
The app connects students with more than 30 construction trades apprenticeships, sending notifications of training and other opportunities based on a student’s career interests, location and educational background.
“I’m incredibly excited for this to roll out because it helps demystify the process of finding a pathway into apprenticeship,” Lechowich said. “The launch of the mobile app will be successful for me if even one person finds this new path. If we can take that beyond the metro area and reach kids in all parts of the state, that would be amazing.”
The free “Construction Trades” app is available through the Apple and Google Play app stores.
The app builds on the efforts of the Construction Careers Foundation, a nonprofit organization in St. Paul, to make students, parents and educators statewide aware of the building trades as an alternative to college that can lead to a middle-class career.
Depending on the trade and the location, a worker’s wages start between $16 and $26 an hour plus benefits and a pension without incurring student loan debt, Lechowich said.
“By the time you finish your apprenticeship, which is two to five years depending on the trade, you will be buying your first home while your friends are graduating with a four-year degree and you’ll have no debt,” Lechowich said.
The foundation also is adapting programs to accommodate social distancing and requirements of the state’s stay-at-home order in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The MN Trades Academy, a paid summer construction internship for selected Twin Cities area high school students, now may involve e-learning and video demonstrations with possible one-on-one training with a professional, Lechowich said. Students also may get hands-on projects to do on their own.
Lechowich joined the foundation in 2017 after teaching communications as an adjunct professor at community colleges and universities.
Q: What is the foundation’s mission?
A: The Construction Careers Foundation is a nonprofit organization made up of industry and labor. Its primary purpose is to help diversify the entrants that come into the construction field, so increasing women and minorities and what we call first-generation trade workers, the people who haven’t grown up around the trades.
Q: Why did you want to develop an app?
A: The app was my vision from day one. The goal is to reach the youth, which is our primary target for the Construction Careers Pathway, a program within the foundation. The app is geared to meet people where they are. Everybody says, “Bring people to the table,” but youth don’t go to the tables. They go to their phone.
Q: What’s the outlook for construction jobs?
A: People are always retiring so there’s always going to be new openings. We have a lot of projects around the state and a lot of projects scheduled several years out so there’s some consistency in the need for apprentices.
Q: Why did you join the foundation?
A: I love being able to let educators, parents and students know about a pathway that leads to middle-class wages. It’s not just livable wages; it’s beyond that. It’s a possible pathway to the American dream of homeownership without having to be burdened with all this student debt.
Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Lake Elmo. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.