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New construction technology program addresses trade labor shortage while giving back

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Program students will spend time at MSC Southeast's new construction workshop Program students will spend time at MSC Southeast's new construction workshop
Jonathan Powell (left) and Travis Thul (right) are the architects behind the new construction technology program Jonathan Powell (left) and Travis Thul (right) are the architects behind the new construction technology program
John Corcoran is leading Habitat for Humanity's ReStore project and will be mentoring  MSC students in the fall John Corcoran is leading Habitat for Humanity's ReStore project and will be mentoring MSC students in the fall
WINONA, Minn. (FOX 47) -

Unemployment in the United States is at its lowest level in nearly two decades, sitting at 3.9%, yet in the construction job industry unemployment sits at 6.5%.

The demand for trade workers is at an all-time high and due to lack of employee training, experience or interest, companies are having a tough time filling that need.

That's where Minnesota State College Southeast comes in.

A brand new construction technology program at MSC Southeast is beginning this fall. It's aimed at fixing the labor shortage problem while constructing community projects with Habitat for Humanity.

"The great thing about the construction technology program and profession is it's an art,  it's a science, it's engineering, it's hands-on, it's methodical work," says MSC Dean of Trade and Technology Travis Thul.

The brand new program gives students hands-on experience while also teaching the foundations of planning, designing, estimating and blueprint reading. 

"You can make really good money, really fast if you're not afraid to work." Says construction technology lead instructor Jonathan Powell.

"You're going to have a knowledge base that will get you caught up -- three years in advance. So now you're working for this employer and he sees that you're knowledgeable.  You're getting paid more money because you went through a program so they know that you have a good knowledge base they know that you're serious about doing this for a living. " 

That knowledge base includes students working on residential and commercial projects; projects that double as an opportunity to give back to the community with Habitat for Humanity.

One of the major projects students will be working on is the construction of a "ReStore", a place where community members can  purchase tools and necessities at rates they can afford.

Other projects students will work on with Habitat for Humanity include constructing 1 to 2 homes from the ground up to give to members in the community in need.

"The people we work with here, the volunteers, they're just tremendous people, all doing it for the same reasons...to give back," says Volunteer Project Manager Dave Wienman.

Giving back, while learning important trade skills and preparing for a career with endless possibilities, that's the opportunity MSC Southeast is offering.

"For those students out there that don't know what they want to do but they know they like working with their hands, they know they like a challenge, and they know that they like working at a place with great employ-ability... this is a perfect program for them," says Thul.

Registration for the program begins Friday, May 11th. MSC says those interested can enroll anytime throughout the summer.

The program offers one and two year curriculum, financial aid and scholarship opportunities.

 Interested parties can call the MSC Winona campus here.

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