Teens gain free career tech ed through new high school partnerships

The Finishing Trades Institute of the Upper Midwest (FTIUM) and Northeast Metro 916 Intermediate School District to provide innovative vocational training and mental health resources through a unique pilot program.

LITTLE CANADA, MN – The Finishing Trades Institute of the Upper Midwest (FTIUM) announced it will deliver free career and technical education (CTE) programming starting with 24 high school students from 15 local high schools starting this January. Students will have access to FTIUM’s 50,000-square-foot state-of-the-art training facility, expert instruction, and FTIUM’s free mental health resources, including private counseling. The goal of the program is to empower first-generation students, low-income students, and students of color to get a head start on lucrative careers in the building trades before they enter the workforce.

The new program enables students to start their path to lucrative, union careers through International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 82 (DC 82) as soon as they graduate from high school. IUPAT DC 82 apprentices boast a 100 percent placement rate with 47.6 percent of members being women and/or persons of color.

Skilled job vacancy in the Twin Cities is nearly twice the amount considered healthy, making programs that foster gainful employment in the building trades even more prudent. Median wage in the Twin Cities remains at about $17.12 per hour. FTIUM graduates earn significantly more, with average salaries of more than $75,000 per year. 

FTIUM’s high school curriculum combines traditional classroom instruction, VR simulation, hands-on training, and one-on-one mentoring, and its unique culture empowers students to graduate into a paid union apprenticeship in painting, drywall finishing, glazing, and more. 

All apprenticeship graduates have the option to transition to FTIUM’s low-cost college degree program.

When asked about the impact the FTIUM high school program had on his life, program graduate Brandon Baier said, “In my high school, I never felt accepted. I was bullied, and I wasn’t doing well in class as a result. But FTIUM’s high school program is like a family. I could learn and practice new skills in a supportive environment. Thanks to them, I’m going from high school directly into a paid apprenticeship. I’m genuinely proud of myself.”

Other local high schools, area learning centers, and charter schools are now welcomed to follow 916 Intermediate School District’s lead by partnering with FTIUM as an eligible CTE provider.

916 Metro Area Intermediate School District’s Assistant Director of Career and Technical Education/Principal, Jill Keller-Stuart, looks forward to the empowerment the partnership will continue to bring to her students. “By partnering with FTIUM, our students from across the metro area, especially those from low-income families, will be able to gain access to career opportunities in the building trades that have not historically been offered to them. Through their program, FTIUM has begun to change the culture of construction to one that is more equitable and inclusive. We look forward to seeing our students thrive in this unconventional and effective approach to higher education. Students can now gain a competitive advantage for their future.”

John Burcaw, FTIUM’s director of academic education, said he was excited by the opportunity to partner with local high schools. “As an industry-leading higher education institution, we have the ability to provide the top-notch training for students from backgrounds that the building trades have failed to represent for decades. We’re expanding diversity in our industry, increasing market share for local contractors, and creating a more equal playing field for our students to step onto once they graduate.” 

“This is an opportunity for youth in career and technical education that has never been available before, and we’re proud that so many local high schools are taking on this critical work with us.”