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High school students explore operating heavy machinery – Brainer Dispatch

STAPLES — High school students from across the state put their skills to the test behind the controls of excavators and loaders on Saturday, April 15 at Central Lakes College in Staples.

The university hosted a hands-on event in partnership with the Operating Engineers Pathway, an industry-led career exploration program available free of charge to public school students in grades 9-12.

Operated by the Minnesota Virtual Academy and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49, Pathway gives students an up-close look at the field of heavy equipment operation and repair while giving them the opportunity to earn high school, college, and apprenticeship credit at the same time. increase.

Students sit at a table and listen to speakers in an industrial space

High school students and parents across the state are listening to instruction at a hands-on event held on April 15 by Central Lakes College in partnership with Operating Engineer Pathway.


Pathway is now in its third year and is growing faster than expected, enrolling over 170 Minnesota students this spring. The program is the first of its kind in Minnesota and its success has come as companies report shortages of skilled workers and gain attention that jobs in the industry are good paying and meaningful careers. it was done.
Jenny Winkelaar, Director of Workforce and Community Development at Local 49, said in a news release:

Pathway students can take four semester-long classes online, covering topics from equipment basics to grades to construction mathematics. Online classes allow students to remain enrolled in their local high school. In-person events provide hands-on experience and industry networking opportunities.

“The most unique thing about it is that none of the schools in the state were able to really dig deep into heavy equipment because none of the schools could afford to buy it,” said Pathway instructor Catherine DeChamps. rice field.

The program’s regular hands-on experience is hosted by partners such as Central Lakes College. Central Lakes College offers a heavy equipment operation and maintenance program, and graduates often participate in his Local 49 apprenticeship program.

A student tried out an excavator with an instructor

Local 49 Business Agent Michael Gilson (right) guides students at a hands-on event hosted by Central Lakes College in partnership with Operating Engineer Pathway on April 15.


Central Lakes Instructor Andrew Anderson said: “High school is a critical time for students to explore their career path. We are proud to partner with Operating Engineers Pathway to help students understand how rewarding a career this can be.” .”

The Operating Engineers Pathway is now enrolling for the fall semester. Students and parents can find out more at or email

The program is the first of its kind in Minnesota, and its success continues as companies report shortages of skilled workers and industry jobs are highlighted as high-paying, meaningful careers. I was dropped.

For more information

Central Lakes College Central Lakes College – Brainerd and Staples is a comprehensive community and technical college serving approximately 5,500 students annually. Its many program offerings include a diploma in heavy equipment operation and maintenance. Learn more at

The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49 has been building the future since 1927. We currently represent over 14,000 heavy equipment operators, machinists and stationary technicians in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, making us one of the largest unions in the region. Our highly skilled members work in a wide range of industries, from road construction to mining to renewable energy and more. See for more information.

Minnesota Virtual Academy is Houston Public Schools’ tuition-free online public school program for students in grades K through 12. A Minnesota Department of Education-approved provider of online education, her MNVA provides parents and families with choices to access curricula and tools. K12, provided by Stride (NYSE: LRN). Stride gives learners of all ages a more effective way to acquire and build skills for the future. For more information on MNVA, please visit

The Operating Engineers Pathway introduces high school students to careers in heavy equipment operation through our exclusive partnership with the Minnesota Virtual Academy and IUOE Local 49. Students will earn four semesters of high school credit while receiving the training necessary to participate in the Local 49 Apprenticeship Program. See for more information.

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