Nailed it: New education program launches carpentry careers in South Minneapolis

Aug 21, 2020

Four local carpentry students are hammering their way toward a better future thanks to a new education program aimed at rebuilding South Minneapolis while empowering Twin Cities residents to participate in the restoration.  

During the past two weeks, the four students learned from carpentry professionals how to frame walls, cut two-by-fours, work safely, and other skills of the trade. Much of their training took place at the Target store on East Lake Street, which is being repaired after it was damaged by rioting in late May.  

“These students went from having trouble reading a tape measure to being able to perform on a construction site without any problems,” said Matt Price, an instructor with the Carpenters Training Institute, which helped create the education program through a partnership with several other carpentry organizations, Target Corp., and The Salvation Army. “These students have passion and drive.” 

Among the students were brothers Juan and Jorge, who both heard about the program at the South Minneapolis Salvation Army and decided to apply.

“When I saw this opportunity, I knew I had to take the chance,” said Juan, 36, who has worked in radio for the past 19 years. “I see this as my future.”

Juan’s brother, Jorge, 38, is a single father who spent years working as a restaurant server and bartender. After Minnesota’s restaurants shut down due to COVID-19, he realized he needed a job that is more stable. 

“I need to be able to provide for my daughter,” Jorge said. “I want a career, which is something our dad didn’t have. We’re very thankful for this opportunity.”

Another goal of the program is to remove financial barriers that could prevent community members from becoming a carpenter. To that end, each student received hundreds of dollars’ worth of tools, safety equipment and new work boots, in addition to receiving thousands of dollars’ worth of free education. (Pictured: The students pick out new boots at Nokomis Shoe Shop in South Minneapolis.)

Price is impressed by how diligent and hard-working the students are.

“These students are already very employable,” said Price, who is now helping the students to connect with contractors who are hiring. “All of them have a pep in their step, and they have the skills they need to be on a jobsite.”

The last day of training took place Aug. 14 at the Target on East Lake Street, where each student received an incredible gift from Target: a paycheck for two weeks of work.

“The students were so surprised – they had no idea they’d be getting any money for this,” said Major Robert Viquez, leader of the South Minneapolis Salvation Army. 

A graduation ceremony will soon take place at the South Minneapolis Salvation Army, where the students received much of their classroom education during the past two weeks. 

“This program is important because it has offered an incredible opportunity to a new lifestyle and a new career,” Viquez said. “These students now have a career they can pursue, and a door to a brighter future. These are the kinds of programs The Salvation Army wants to help bring into our communities.”

The program was made possible by the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters, Noor Construction, Engelsma Construction, Carpenters Training Institute, Target Corp., and The Salvation Army. 

Please join The Salvation Army in serving those affected by the COVID-19 crisis by giving a donation or signing up to volunteer. Your help will provide emergency assistance and hope for people and families in desperate need.

If you are feeling lonely, fearful or hopeless due to the COVID-19 crisis, call our Emotional and Spiritual Care Hotline at 877-220-4195 anytime between 8 a.m.–8 p.m. Central Time. Trained Salvation Army officers, employees and volunteers will be available to talk, listen to you, and pray for you. 

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