Shaping a diverse workforce through innovative collaboration

By Barbara Mcdonald
Guest Columnist

Nothing is more rewarding to me than hearing a student say their education was a “life-changing experience.”
In fact, many students who attended the June 30 graduation ceremony for the Light Rail Transit Build Apprenticeship Preparatory Program shared this sentiment.
LRT Build is an example of collaboration at its best, bringing together the talents and resources from The Metropolitan Council, Twin Cities RISE, The Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council, The Construction Careers Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, The Hennepin-Carver Workforce Development Board and North Hennepin Community College to meet workforce demand and improve the lives of many community members.
The 10-week program geared toward underemployed or unemployed adults, and women and minorities, includes job readiness training, core construction training in the classroom, and hands-on training with construction unions. Upon completion of the program, graduates had the opportunity to meet with construction contractors working on the Southwest Light Rail Transit project, a new 14.5-mile light rail transit line that will connect downtown Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka, and Eden Prairie. Scheduled to begin construction in 2017, it is one of Minnesota’s largest construction projects. Starting wages for apprentices in key construction fields is $18 or more an hour.
I want to thank NHCC faculty member Rich Krohn who led the classroom instruction, sharing his 31 years of experience in the construction industry. He had this to say about the program: “I really enjoyed teaching this class. It opened doors that many students did not know existed. They had the chance to learn what it takes to build the railroads, bridges and tunnels that will be part of the new light rail line and physically see and what it takes to be a construction craftworker on a major civil construction project. These students have the potential to make a career out of whatever craft they choose.”
While LRT Build graduates have only been out of the program a few weeks, we continue to receive inquiries from prospective employers. Six of the 16 students who graduated have secured jobs, while others are interviewing or have conditional offers of employment. The LRT Build Program will be offered again in spring 2018.
North Hennepin Community College is proud to be a partner in this innovative collaboration that is shaping the future workforce, helping to build diverse talent, and closing employment gaps. We are grateful to our collaborators, and I look forward to our continued involvement in this program and future opportunities to better the communities we serve.

Barbara McDonald is President of North Hennepin Community College