MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It has the sound of a residential construction site, complete with saws buzzing and pneumatic nailers hissing.
It is where Antonio Stepan and his Eagan High School classmates are learning a trade.
“It’s one of those things where you get schooled in it, get your education in it and you’re going to have a job right away,” Stepan said. “They couldn’t have enough of them right now.”
The students are constructing a tiny house — all framed, sided, wired and plumbed.
“Completely building it from nothing, and it’s cool to see the progress we’ve made,” he said.
The program is also hoping to help solve a growing shortage of skilled construction workers, which trades unions say will only get worse in the coming years.
That is because the baby boomer generation is retiring at an alarming rate, and not enough younger workers have entered the field.
“When these kids graduate they have a path they’re ready for,” said program director Nick Johnson. “And by doing this project they’re exposed to different areas, and it will spark an interest and maybe they’ll want to go be an electrician.”
Trade careers pay well and are not burdened by huge college debt.
“It shows there are more options than just college and degrees like that,” said Emma Zellmer, a high school senior and program participant.
Still, Zellmer will go on to college after graduation, but she has bigger plans of someday owning her own all female construction company.
“I don’t want to depend on a man and make sure I don’t need to call up somebody when I need to fix something on my house,” Zellmer said.
They are learning to take pride in their work, and staking out a solid future.