DCTC SkillsUSA Chapter Awarded SkillsUSA Lowe’s Community Service Grant

Rosemount college only school in Minnesota to receive one of 10 nationwide competitive grants.

The SkillsUSA Chapter at Dakota County Technical College has been selected by Lowe’s Companies to receive a SkillsUSA Lowe’s Community Service Grant. TheLowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation awarded 10 service grants of up to $10,000 to SkillsUSA high schools and colleges across the country.

Mike Opp, DCTC dean of transportation and industry, submitted the original grant proposal, which requested $9,750 to construct a new, brick-and-block community and commuter message sign along with a rest stop, security lighting, and bench seating at a high-traffic bicycle and walking path near North Trail Elementary School in Farmington, Minn. The project also includes the development of a native habitat learning garden with educational plaques.

“The students and faculty in our programs are excited to participate in this community project with Lowe’s Companies SkillsUSA and Farmington Public Schools,” Opp said. “DCTC is committed to community engagement and service learning projects. The changeable message sign will inform residents and thousands of passersby about community news and events. The native habitat area will serve as an outdoor classroom for the 800 elementary students who attend North Trail.”

Opp added that SkillsUSA students in the Concrete and Masonry, Landscape Horticulture, and Electrical Construction and Maintenance Technology programs will provide leadership, planning and labor for the project.

The Lowe’s store in West St. Paul will partner with DCTC and participate during all phases of the project, serving as a source for materials, design ideas and other support through to final construction.

Terry Trimble, a lead member of the commercial sales team at the West St. Paul store, related that Lowe’s was ready to assist with the project from start to finish.

“Our partnership with SkillsUSA and DCTC underscores the company’s commitment to education,” Trimble said. “Through grants to local chapters and support of charter community service projects, we hope to help further educate and empower young people who will become contractors, industry leaders and community volunteers of the future.”

Jennifer Polz, executive director of SkillsUSA Minnesota, welcomed the recognition the grant brought to the state, local communities and Dakota County Technical College.

“We at SkillsUSA really appreciate all the work done by the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation,” Polz said. “We are looking forward to working in partnership with Lowe’s and DCTC on this wonderful project.”

Dr. Steven Geis, the principal of North Trail Elementary School, noted that the project was a win all the way around for his students, the students at DCTC and for the communities involved.

“Probably the most exciting aspect of the project is the way it will enhance community awareness,” Geis said. “The message sign and rest stop will serve as a bridge between the communities of Farmington, Lakeville and Apple Valley. Our students will learn about Minnesota’s native plants, and the college students will gain experience working on a real-world project.”

Trudi Greaves, an assistant director of the DCTC Foundation and a primary writer of the initial grant application, pointed to the college’s SkillsUSA students as major benefactors of the grant.

“The students take a lot of pride in the work they do,” she said. “I think it’s really neat that projects like this get them out of the classroom and into real-life conditions where they can build something that lasts.”

The college-wide service learning project is scheduled to begin in spring semester 2008 with concrete and masonry work starting in March. The message sign and bench seating have an estimated completion date of mid-April. Landscaping and native gardening will begin that same month with a estimated completion date for the entire project set at May 1, 2008.

A national nonprofit organization, SkillsUSA works to advance the skill level of the American workforce through partnerships with students, teachers and industry representatives. With more 15,000 sections and 54 state and territorial associations, the organization, which was formed in 1965, serves more than 285,000 members.SkillsUSA Minnesota has a membership that tops 50, 000.

Famous for the slogan, “Let’s build something together,” Lowe’s Companies is a Fortune 500 company with 210,000 employees and 2007 revenues of $48.3 billion. Founded in 1946 and based in Mooresville, N.C., Lowe’s is a retail home improvement and appliance chain that serves some 13 million customers a week in roughly 1,400 stores in the U.S. and Canada.

Graduates of the Concrete and Masonry program are thoroughly prepared for careers as cement masons as well as brick and block masons in residential and commercial construction. Students learn fundamental construction skills and become experts in all aspects of concrete, one of the most prevalent and durable construction materials in the world.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national job outlook for cement masons and concrete finishers is good with employment expected to grow at a rate of 11 percent over the next decade.

The employment and education Web site, iseek.org, reports that the average hourly wage is $23.44 for cement masons and concrete finishers in Minnesota. The top earners in the state make as much as $33.16 an hour.

Landscape professionals who graduate from the Landscape Horticultural program are ready to design, install, and manage garden and park projects on residential, commercial, and public properties. The DCTC program is the only one of its kind in Minnesota to earn accreditation from the Professional Landcare Network, or PLANET, the national trade organization of the landscape industry.

According to the Minnesota Nursery & Landscape Association (MNLA), the landscape industry has never been stronger in the state. Nursery and landscape companies in Minnesota produce more than $2 billion in sales annually.

Equipped with knowledge of the National Electrical Code, graduates of the Electrical Construction and Maintenance program are prepared for apprenticeship in the electrical field. Trained to engage electrical/electronic theory in practical applications, they have the ability to install electrical services legally and safely.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the median hourly wage at $20.97 for fully trained electricians in the U.S. as of May 2006. Top earners approached $35 an hour. The education and employment Web site, iseek.org, gives $31.85 as the average hourly wage for electricians in the seven-county, Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area in the fourth quarter of 2007.