Minnesota State College Southeast instructor Amanda Griffin and student Trevor Duerr work together to fix a vehicle.

Promising careers in the trades



Children are often asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” They may give delightful answers like “an astronaut” or “a doctor.” As a child, Carson W. Ekstedt knew that he liked Legos.

“I’ve always been a fan of building things,” Ekstedt explained. “I was the kid with 5,000 Legos.”

Today, Ekstedt is still building things as a welding student at Minnesota State College Southeast (MSC Southeast), a local technical and community college, and as an employee at Anova Furnishings. He said being creative and building are some of the best parts of welding for him.

Ekstedt stated that he considered several financial factors when deciding to pursue training in welding.

“I haven’t necessarily been a big fan of school to begin with, and I didn’t want to pay a whole lot of money to go to a big university and get a degree in something that I may or may not use,” Ekstedt shared. “I primarily started looking at tech schools for welding because I know that it’s a job that is in demand, and I love it, and if I do move on to something else in the future and it doesn’t work out, I’ll always have something with a good pay to fall back onto.”

Ekstedt explained that after graduating, he hopes to work at a local shop and eventually have a fabrication shop of his own.

Dawn Lubahn, the interim dean for business, trade and technology at MSC Southeast, said there are employment opportunities in the trade and technology industry. “There are living-wage, good jobs available in all aspects of manufacturing,” Lubahn shared, noting that there are positions open for individuals with credentials ranging from a post-secondary certificate to a four-year degree.

Lubahn noted that she hopes students can go out into the workplace and utilize the skills they learned at MSC Southeast to support themselves and live well. “With career and technical education as a whole, I want students to be able to come in, earn a, say, two-year degree, have a skill set and be able to go out and earn a living,” Lubahn stated.

The manufacturing sector in Minnesota is projected to add 83,207 jobs by 2026, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

The median wage for both CNC operators and welders in Minnesota is around $45,000 a year, according to DEED. The agency projected that 11,000 welding jobs, 4,700 CNC jobs and 14,000 general machinist jobs will be created in the next 10 years.

Adam Stroinski is a MSC Southeast class of 2019 CNC machine tool graduate who is currently working at Fastenal.

Stroinski explained that he feels he is on track to make a good living. He added that he thinks leadership opportunities may be available for him in the future.

He said he is a hands-on person who likes to make things and shared that he feels his work fits his interests. He stated that he appreciates making parts that he thinks are “extremely applicable to the real world” and help make the world go around, such as parts for airplane companies.

Amanda Griffin, an automotive technology instructor at MSC Southeast, was a student at the school from 2006 to 2008. Since graduating, Griffin has taught at the school and worked at several repair shops.

“To this day, when I’m working on a car, I can picture sitting in the classroom and what I was told and what I was taught,” Griffin noted.

She shared that she enjoys solving problems and witnessing the “light bulb” moments students have when they come to understand the various concepts she teaches them.

“When you take enough vehicles apart, you begin to create your own way of connecting to everything,” Griffin explained.

Lubahn said she wants prospective students to know she feels students are cared for at MSC Southeast. “We are small, and that means that our faculty, our staff, our administration, know our students,” Lubahn stated. “We support our students, because we know that everyone comes through life with a different story and context. We’re ready to meet students where they’re at and willing to do anything to help them be successful. And they can come here and they’re not going to be drowning in student loan debt.”

Learn more about MSC Southeast by visiting http://www.southeastmn.edu/.


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