Online “pathways” help students learn the trade – InForum

DULUTH — Ryan Milton had a full-time job about a week after graduating from Northeast Range School in Babbitt last spring.

The 18-year-old spent his summer as a greaser on a three-person crew at a gravel pit north of Duluth, making sure the massive blowing machines remained in working order as they crushed and sorted rocks in different consistencies for regional road projects.

“I make big boulders small,” Milton joked during a free moment at work on Wednesday.

Ulland Brothers tanker Ryan Milton uses a skid steer loader to keep areas around aggregate mining equipment clear of derbies on Wednesday.

Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Milton estimated that he works about 60 to 70 hours a week and has earned about $25,000 before taxes since he started. Originally from Embarrass, Milton and a handful of other mine workers live in small trailers near the entrance to the gravel pit.

Money, of course, appealed to him, but Milton also noted that other jobs in the same vein can be dropped during the winter.

The man is a safety suit working at the aggregate mine
Ryan Milton checks on a screen rig while operating aggregate mining equipment Wednesday at Ulland Brothers in Gnesen Township.

Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

“You can’t put asphalt on the road all year round and dig roads all year round, but what you can do all year round is crush a rock,” Milton said. “All over the world, there will be a need for stone crushing. »

Milton’s interest in heavy equipment began at a young age and he said he didn’t want to go to college after graduating from high school. His father has worked the same kind of job for the past 20 years and helped Milton land the job at the gravel pit, which is operated by contractors Ulland Brothers.

“It was kind of a thing where I was like, if I don’t like it, I can always change it,” Milton told the News Tribune.

Along with merry rides in his grandfather’s front loader and countless hours of tinkering in the family garage, Milton began his fledgling career via a “path” for budding operations engineers at the Minnesota Virtual Academy, a fully online K-12 school. by Houston Public Schools in southeastern Minnesota.

About 350 miles north of Houston, Milton learned general maintenance techniques, grading and staking, and construction-level math alongside his traditional high school required classes. He said he believed the courses helped him pass the tests he needed to join Local 49 of the International Union of Operating Engineers. Milton said he had a job in Ulland before he received his high school diploma.

The man is a safety suit working at the aggregate mine
Ryan Milton talks about his job as an oilman in Gnesen Township.

Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

The virtual academy welcomes K-12 students from across the state. It has been a wing of the Houston School District for 21 years. Cash per student in the state is the financial bread and butter of school districts in Minnesota, and Houston district leaders established the academy to attract more students and keep the district’s doors open. according to Superintendent Mary Morem.

About 500 students attend Houston Public Schools in person and about 1,600 more attend the virtual academy.

The “pathways” within the academy are aimed at students in grades 6 through 12, and they are much newer than the virtual school – they are in the same vein as the career “academies” that have seen the day in the region over the years. last years. Students who choose a virtual school path take courses designed to give them a taste of future careers in nursing, IT, marketing and other fields.

The Operations Engineers course that Milton has taken is run in conjunction with Local 49, whose members provide staff time and the use of a Hinckley Training Center for students on the course.


bill approved by state lawmakers

in March 2021, allocated $100,000 to the District of Houston so that administrators can reimburse school districts whose students opt for a part-time virtual academy path. The goal is to avoid straining the finances of these districts if a student opts for a bridging class.

The man is a safety suit working at the aggregate mine
Ulland Brothers tanker Ryan Milton, with some of the equipment he is responsible for operating and maintaining, seen Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022, in a gravel pit in Gnesen Township north of Duluth

Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

The same bill also requires Houston leaders to report to the Legislature on the program by January 2024.

Morem said academy pathways can help students even if they don’t consider the area a given pathway might direct them to.

“Even though you may be going to become a welder, but it’s a construction or heavy equipment class, it might give you knowledge that you might need when you’re a welder for a pipeline or whatever,” a- she declared. . “I think it opens doors.”

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