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State leaders urging Minnesota high school students to explore lucrative trade jobs

The push for more training for tech jobs
The push for more training for tech jobs 01:52

By WCCO's Beret Leone

NEW BRIGHTON, Minn. – Some students at Irondale High School are thinking ahead. They're part of a growing Career and Technical Education program.

"You're living the process of the dream of where you want to end up," said Stephanie Burrage, deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE). "Where is your career is going to be?" 

State leaders from MDE, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI), learned about efforts to help students explore and prepare for trade jobs Tuesday afternoon in New Brighton.

The program gives students real-life experience in welding, manufacturing and other trade jobs before graduation. It's a huge industry for the country, and Minnesota. In manufacturing alone, it's a $56 billion industry.

"I never really had a plan on going to college," said former Irondale Student and trade worker Ryan Larson. "I never really liked school that much, and then I saw these programs, and that you can actually make quite a bit of money."


According to DEED, trade jobs can bring in 10%-15% higher wages than other industries across the state.

"You don't have to go to a four-year college or a two-year college to get a good-paying job," Irondale High School Student Walter Patterson said.

It's opening new doors to students uninterested in pursuing a four-year education program.

"I was never really interested in pursuing a four-year college degree," Irondale High School Student Oscar Garcia said. "There's been times where I was thinking of dropping out. But then I saw these doors open up for me in the trades and it really made me want to learn more."

State leaders agree.

"The idea that every student has to go out and get a four-year degree is not necessarily something that I think we would push forward anymore," DEED Commissioner Steve Grove said.

Instead, a push for something different.

"Help us shift that narrative," Mounds View Public Schools Superintendent Chris Lennox said. "Not school for schools' sake, but education because it's gonna lead us to whatever these young men and women want to be as they grow up and ascend to their next careers."

To date, DLI has approved more than 100 manufacturing companies throughout the state to provide students with work-based learning opportunities.

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