While parents and educators are struggling with decisions about educational options during the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 49 and Minnesota Virtual Academy (MNVA) have partnered together to offer a unique opportunity for high school students to complete online elective courses that are designed to introduce students into the heavy equipment industry.
According to a news release, this program is part of the Destinations Career Academy model MNVA offers.
These courses are available to any high school student grades 9th–12th enrolled in a Minnesota school district and will count toward high school elective classes, college credit, and will make a student better prepared for the IUOE Local 49 Apprenticeship Program.
High school students can enroll in these online courses from any school district in the state of Minnesota. They can be taken anywhere at any time at no cost to the student. The program includes four semester courses that give an overview of skills needed to successfully prepare students for entrance into the IUOE Local 49 Registered Apprenticeship Program. These courses include construction exploration, basic grade and construction math, construction equipment fundamentals, and basic maintenance of mobile equipment. Students are eligible to receive college credit through North Hennepin Community College that will transfer anywhere throughout the MN State system.
“IUOE Local 49 has a proud history for nearly 100 years of providing highly skilled heavy equipment operators to build the infrastructure the people of Minnesota depend on daily,” said Jason George, IUOE Local 49 business manager. “Getting individuals clear information about how to become an operating engineer at an earlier age by reaching into the K-12 system through this innovative partnership will help to ensure we continue the tradition of training excellence while also reaching new and diverse populations that may not have connections or awareness of our industry.”
George said this opportunity is ideal for the current school climate with districts facing more online learning models this fall due to COVID-19. Schools can be enrolled at their current high schools and enroll in this pathway.
“Our membership and frankly, the people of Minnesota are depending on us, particularly during these unprecedented times to make sure we are doing all we can to make Minnesota WORK for all of us. We see this partnership program as part of that intentional pathway to success,” he said.
In addition to the online classes, students participating in this apprenticeship readiness pathway will have opportunities to visit the IUOE Local 49 Training Center located in Hinkley, Minn., where they will be able to engage in hands on activities on heavy equipment simulators. This will help determine if the students’ aptitudes and abilities line up with their interest in pursuing a career in the vast field of heavy equipment operators and mechanics, the release said.
The IUOE registered apprenticeship program requires applicants to be 18 year of age or older, have a high school diploma or equivalent, possess a valid driver’s license and reliable transportation, be able to pass an entry level assessment test as well as drug test. First year apprentice wage rates range from $24-$34/hour plus benefits. The IUOE/MNVA K12 partnership program offers students and their families an opportunity to explore this career path and see if it is a fit. Making an informed choice is an important first step.