Sixty-two future union trades apprentices graduated from the Building Strong Communities Program this May, double the number from the previous year. Developed in partnership with the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trade Council, North Hennepin Community College, trade unions and community partners, Building Strong Communities (BSC) is a multi-trade apprenticeship preparatory program that prepares participants for a career in the construction industry. And those opportunities weren’t long in coming: More than half of the graduates had employment opportunities lined up by the time they graduated. 

“What I said today when they graduated was I’m so happy for them because they are starting a career I’m just ending – and I’m jealous,” Executive Director Rick Matagon said. “I had so much fun out in the field.”

Each of the graduates will have a career in a trade they choose, make a great living, continue their education in registered apprenticeship programs and, ultimately, wind up as a journeyworker with all the benefits a career in the trades provides.

Crystal Carter was stuck in a dead end job and wanted a career she “could grow with.” A young mother with two boys, that’s easier said than done. But the Building Strong Communities team encouraged her to continue through every part of the program. 

“The BS team was nothing but welcoming and encouraging to me through everything. I never want to be in a position again where I have to rely on anyone to provide for me and my boys,” she said. “By getting into the union, by getting into the trades, I’m able to pay my bills and have extra to support them and do fun things with.”

For Eric Frazier, Building Strong Communities has been life-changing since Day One because it’s given him a second chance. He spent 23 years in prison as a non-violent drug offender. “I love working with my hands. I feel at home,” he said. “Don’t let the age fool you. I can get my knees dirty like the young guys.”

For the graduates, it’s just the beginning. In twenty or thirty years from now they’ll have retired from a career in a trade of choice. And what could be better than that?