How MnDOT-DEED Cement Mason Training Changed James’ Life

a person in a yellow and black jacket with reflective strips standing in front of a sign with the U.S. and Canadian flags that reads Local 633 organized1864

James enrolled in the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Highway Construction Cement Mason program in 2021. Getting his foot in the door for this high-demand career path changed James’ life.  

That 6-week MnDOT-DEED-sponsored training course back in 2021 prepared James to become an apprentice in the Local 633 Cement Mason union. Now, James is working for the City of Minneapolis to complete the 6,000 hours of on-the-job training required to become a Journeyman Cement Mason. So far, he has completed 2,800 of those hours, doing curb and gutter work, replacing sidewalk sections and working on streets in Minneapolis. 

“Cement masonry has given me literally and figuratively the tools to increase confidence in myself and make a difference in the world. When I am working on ADA ramps I know I am making a difference, and I got to work on a parking ramp and I can tell my kids I helped build that parking ramp.” 

James added, “I have health, eye, dental insurance and a pension. These are all things I thought I would get when I had kids and now at 35 I have that. It is life changing and the money is fantastic as well.” 

In early April, James earned his third-year certificate at the Joint Training Center in New Brighton, after completing classroom and hands-on training at the site taught by expert cement masons. The trainings were held during seasonal downtime for one week a month during the winter months. 

“Without the help of instructors and without the help from Sylvia (Garcia, from DEED CareerForce) I would not be where I am now – which is definitely a better place than three years ago.”