C magazine

How a school superintendent is helping build trades workforce

Superintendent John Brown

Joe Brown, superintendent of Fairmont (Minn.) Area Schools, is helping prepare students to enter the trades workforce.

Mar 11, 2021

Replacing 200,000 skilled tradespeople is a lofty goal. That’s how many people will exit the Minnesota workforce in the next two years due to retirement. But it’s a goal that Joe Brown is ready to help tackle. 

The superintendent of Fairmont Area Schools in south-central Minnesota is taking action to fill those critical roles by creating a construction trades academy.

Housed at Fairmont High School, the academy will offer a full suite of training opportunities, including HVAC certification and a woodshop where students build houses for Habitat for Humanity.

“We’re giving students a way to enter the workforce without college debt,” says Brown. 

CHS, which relies on tradespeople at its 95 facilities throughout Minnesota, including a soy-processing plant in Fairmont, provided a $100,000 gift to help open the school. “The private sector and schools have to work together to build a trained workforce,” says Brown. “It’s in the business community’s best interest.”

When it opens in summer 2022, the academy will join other specialized training at the high school, including welding, automotive, agriculture and culinary arts academies.

“We are a comprehensive high school, like a community college,” says Brown. “Offering our students specialized training allows them to be ready for the workforce, including gaining necessary certifications, as soon as they graduate.” 

Check out the full C magazine with this article and more.