Duluth Builders Exchange Legacy Fund supports next generation of tradespeople

DULUTH—The Duluth Builders Exchange Legacy Fund, the newest scholarship fund created at the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation, is accepting applications.

The fund is designed to foster a new generation of tradespeople in Northeast Minnesota and Northwest Wisconsin. The region needs a well-trained workforce to help build the area’s infrastructure, but the cost of gaining education and experience to enter the trades is growing out of reach for many young people. The scholarship fund seeks to fill the gap by providing educational assistance to those entering the building and construction industry through two- and four- year college programs as well as apprenticeships.

The scholarship also is designed to recognize decades of contributions by the Duluth Builders Exchange to the region’s building and construction industry. For 117 years, the organization has supported and promoted the success of its members. Much of this work took place at the office building that the organization owned on Garfield Avenue in Duluth. When the group sold the building earlier this year, members created the scholarship fund.

“Given our long history of providing for the needs of our industry, we put a lot of thought into how to best use this resource for the benefit of our members,” Duluth Builders Exchange Executive Director Don O’Connor said. “The logical answer was to support workforce development for the future of our industry through these scholarships.”

He added: “Helping a new generation of workers with the education, training and expertise they need to be successful was something our membership easily supported.”

To be eligible for a scholarship for the two- and four-year college programs, students must have graduated from a high school in the seven counties in northeast Minnesota and three in northwest Wisconsin. They also must plan to pursue building and construction careers in the region.

Typical majors for four-year program applicants are: engineering, architecture and construction management. Majors for the two-year program scholarship are more varied and can include training for the work of: carpenters, electricians, equipment operators, ironworkers, masons, painters, plumbers, sheet metal workers and others. The apprenticeship arm of the scholarship will provide grants for individuals who have been accepted into one of the many local trade apprenticeship programs. Two- and four- year programs will generally pay for tuition and other expenses. Grants for the apprenticeship program can help pay for the tools, clothing or safety equipment required for starting those programs.

Applications for two college programs are available now and are due by Jan. 15. The application deadline for the first round of apprenticeship scholarships will be determined in the spring.

“This is exciting and important work for us to be undertaking, and we’re happy to be working with the Community Foundation to make it happen,” O’Connor said. “Education and training, whether formally through local colleges or on-the-job experience, is such a vital part of our industry. We’re proud to be able to provide these opportunities to our future workforce.”

Community Foundation President and CEO Holly C. Sampson said: “These scholarships will complement our educational and community-building efforts by creating paths to career opportunities in building and construction. We’re eager to support the growth of our community with this resource dedicated to encouraging a thriving building and construction industry.”