At an early age, I was exposed to many career opportunities in southwest Minnesota thanks to my parents. They owned and operated Adrian Farm and Garden until my senior year of high school, which showed me the heart of our area — agriculture. My father, who is a “jack of all trades," has taught me to build and fix almost anything. Knowing at a young age of where the future to prosper existed, I choose the road to become a carpenter.
Why a carpenter, you might ask? Because I absolutely love to work with my hands, being outdoors and getting to see and feel the pride with the completion of every finished project.
I choose to stay and start a family in southwest Minnesota solely because of the people. Not many areas of the United States still have neighbors helping neighbors. We are privileged to live and work in the area where we are. To see our youth leave and move to larger cities, year after year, breaks my heart. I do understand certain career paths are not available here for graduating students, thus the need to move. We might not have all the shopping centers or sporting complexes, but we truly have each other to count on to lend a helping hand when needed. To me, that is priceless.
In 2019, the carpentry instructor position was offered to me. With encouragement from my wife, I excepted without hesitation. The opportunity to teach young people the things I have learned over the years being a carpenter and cabinet maker is truly an honor and was definitely my “calling." Teaching tricks of the trade and the famous saying “a good carpenter can hide their mistakes” is very rewarding!
With continuing growth in southwest Minnesota, we are faced with the absolute need of skilled laborers in the construction industry. Laborers such as carpenters, electricians and plumbers are at an all-time low, and young people seem to have lost interest in these areas for a career. Most, if not all, business owners in these areas continue to struggle to find skilled employees to fill that shortage void. Starting hourly wages in either of the three are typically $20-plus dollars an hour. With figuring in our cost of living here, that isn’t such bad starting pay.
Here at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, we offer programs in these three areas with a very high job placement rate, and most students are hired before they complete their studies. Our persistence is also opening up doors for students to receive scholarships never offered before. Minnesota West is dedicated to our area to educate our youth and do whatever it takes to keep them here where they are needed. Community support has tremendously helped in that role and makes Minnesota West one of the best community and technical colleges in the nation. Our faculty and staff are some of the best people I have ever had the privilege to work with. Their strive for student success is truly unbelievable, honorable and humbling.
Minnesota West Carpentry students learn many areas of the construction industry, but our highlight is the Blight House project. In 2017, a collaborative effort was created between the city of Pipestone, the Pipestone EDA, Pipestone school district and Minnesota West that allows our students to enroll in college construction coursework and learn hands on by completely renovating a blighted property. Our students not only learn how to remodel a home, they learn community involvement and a strong career pathway.
Trade skills are tools that last a lifetime. To be successfully capable of working on your own home or other projects is very beneficial, even if you choose not to enter into a career. Learning at least one trade in your lifetime will pay for itself tenfold. So, the next time you here a young person say “I don’t know what I want to do in the future," suggest a construction trade program. They will thank you down the road — and so will all of southwest Minnesota.