Building a career

Union reps claim 3,000 construction jobs could be filled locally with right training

Photo by Jody Isaackson Laborers’ International Union of North America representatives Gary Larsen and Lucas Franco share information with high school students at a career expo at held at Southwest Minnesota State University recently. They recruit apprentices and journeymen for construction jobs.

MARSHALL — There are about 3,000 jobs out there in the construction field that could be filled with local laborers if they had the right training, according to Lucas Franco with Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA).

It is a major goal of LIUNA to help construction companies find local laborers that are qualified for even the most complicated jobs, its research manager said.

LIUNA was one of the 125 exhibitors at the recent career expo held at Southwest Minnesota State University providing career education information to students.

Franco and director of LIUNA’s apprenticeship program, Gary Larsen, manned the recruiting booth to show area sophomores and juniors they could be out in the field making good money in a few short weeks instead of four to five years.

If they would become an apprentice or journeyman with one of LIUNA’s contractor sponsors, they could be working in construction — maybe even on the new wind towers that are springing up in southwest Minnesota.

Technical training for these jobs can help the new employee prospects find jobs near their hometowns, said career assessment coordinator Mary Mortier of Southwest West Central Service Cooperative.

“This career expo is first to help sophomores and juniors figure out what types of careers they’re interested in,” she said, “and secondly to let them know they can train for it right here in Minnesota.”

Mortier added that two-thirds of the available jobs do not require four-year degrees, which is where community and technical colleges or apprentice/journeyman training come in.

LIUNA’s training base is in Lino Lakes, where Larsen is based.

“I love working this job — planting seeds with young folks,” Larsen said. “I also inform them of other trades as well. They need to find something (some kind of work) to do, and I offer them information. Each union trade has our training center to teach others our scope of work.”

“And we can take our training around and offer specific courses all over the state,” Franco said.

There are 70 different classes for young workers to take.

“We’re a labor union,” he said. “Our 12,000 members pay dues. Signatory contractors contribute to our training fund allowing members to take courses. It is free to the students. The students sign up to work for one of the companies that pay for the training.”

Larsen also said there is no cost to apprentices or journeymen to take their classes.

“We’re trying to get young people and their parents excited about getting into the building trades,” Franco said. “There are really good career opportunities there. We show young folks there’s this other pathway, especially with wind power, which is in a boom time.”

Franco explained that in the wind industry, there hasn’t been much commitment to hiring locally. LIUNA is working to change that.

“As you know, we are very concerned by the growth in wind farm construction outsourcing to non-local construction workers from places like Texas and Utah,” Franco said. “We are confident that there is a willing and able workforce locally to provide at least a majority of local labor on new wind farm construction projects. Some developers meet this goals while many others make big promises about recruiting local workers, but instead rely largely on labor outsourcing and put little effort into local recruitment.”

Hiring locally benefits everyone, Franco said.


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