Apprenticeship 101 for the Construction Trades

MInnesota map with northeast region highlighted and words Northeast Minnesota

Faced with a tight labor market and with many employers having difficulty hiring new workers, the city of Duluth hosted the first Northeast Minnesota Apprenticeship Summit on November 15, 2019 to invite educators and community leaders to learn more about the union trades and the need for skilled craftspeople in the Arrowhead. Along with panels of regional experts and local apprentices, attendees were also able to tour local trade unions including the Plumbers and Pipefitters, Ironworkers, and Carpenters. There was also an Apprenticeship 101 presentation to familiarize those in attendance with the apprenticeship model.

photo of Governor Walz speaking at NE MN Apprenticeship Summit

Governor Walz spoke at the summit, highlighting the opportunities in the skilled trades and how many people who haven't considered working in the trades may find those occupations align well with their aptitudes and interests.

With almost $2.2 billion dollars in new development planned in Northeast Minnesota, including $800 million dollars for the Essentia Vision Northland Healthcare construction project and $343 million for the Can of Worms I-35 corridor project, the Arrowhead will need more skilled tradespeople both to grow the existing labor pool to meet demand and also to replace those who are retiring.

Data from DEED’s 2016 to 2026 Employment Outlook tool shows that the region will need more than 2,600 new workers over the next decade to fill existing construction and extraction jobs that become available as current workers retire or otherwise exit the labor force. With most positions offering higher than average wages, the largest demand will be for:

At an industry level, the heavy and civil engineering construction sector is projected to see the most new job growth over the next decade, with the fastest growth in utility system construction. The region is also expected to gain jobs in building foundation, exterior contractors and residential building construction.

With this projected growth and continued demand from retirements, it is vital for construction employers to create interest among students and job seekers, especially because the construction workforce tends to skew younger than most other industries. According to DEED’s Quarterly Employment Demographics tool, over 61 percent of construction workers are 44 years or younger, compared to 57.6 percent across all industries. Just 18 percent of the construction workforce was 55 years or older, 5 percent less than the total of all industries. However, the percent of older workers increased significantly over the past decade, from 12.2 percent to 18.2 percent (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 NE MN Percent of Workforce by Age, for details about the information contained in this graphic, please contact Cameron Macht, Labor Market Analyst, at

To promote the skilled trades, leading CareerForce partners Duluth Workforce Development and the Northeast Minnesota Office of Job Training developed 218 Trades, a website with local resources to help guide youth, parents, teachers, and job seekers on the opportunities available in the skilled trades and how to begin the application process. NEMOJT staff also are actively promoting the site with local schools, and connecting students who show an interest in certain occupations to representatives in the local trades who can help them learn more. More information can be found at

For more information on construction initiatives in Northeast Minnesota, contact:
Shawn Herhusky, Workforce Strategy Consultant
CareerForce Duluth
402 W 1st St | Duluth MN 55802
Cell: 218.349.1428