From the youngest age, kids are asked what they want to be when the grow up. And by 18 and the end of high school, it’s decision time. For Kaylyn Nygaard, her dream job didn’t have too many requirements:
So, directly from high school, Kaylyn enrolled in the one-year carpentry program at Rochester Community and Technical College (RCTC). With that foundation in place and a desire to earn a good wage while obtaining an education, Kaylyn turned to the earn-as-you-learn apprenticeship programs offered through her local building and construction trade unions. She enrolled in the Finishing Trades Institute of the Upper Midwest Apprenticeship Programs, which require three years and more than 6,000 hours of training (on-the-job plus supplemental classroom hours). While that’s a lot of training, apprentices earn a living wage while working, and their wage increases steadily as they accumulate hours. “Learn on the job rather than in the classroom? Check”
“Finishing trades” are the types of jobs that complete a construction project, like drywall taping, painting, glasswork, and more. As a taper with Mulcahy Nickolaus, Inc., Kaylyn begins work once drywall installation is complete. Finishers tape and apply joint compound to prepare walls for paint, wallcovering, or other finishes. As an apprentice, Kaylyn learned blueprint reading, surface preparation, drywall finishing, use and care of state-of-the-art tools and equipment, and health and safety regulations. “Work with my hands? Check!”
Given the vast opportunities within the construction and building trades, what made finishing trades so appealing to Kaylyn? The variety! No two days are ever alike, and no project is ever the exact same. “Do something new every day? Check!”
For Kaylyn, her year at RCTC and two years in the Finishing Trades Institute opened her eyes to the opportunities trades provide and the details each specialty requires, thereby meeting most all of her dream job requirements. But it’s her union – International Union of Painters and Allied Trades ((IUPAT) Local 681, District 82 – that makes the dream a reality. From the wages and benefits to the leadership development opportunities and union camaraderie, Kaylyn knows she has landed in the right place. With this reliable, fulfilling work, it means Kaylyn can more fully enjoy her first priority – her family, including her labrador-husky pup. And with one more year left of her apprenticeship, she’s already diving into union leadership – voting on contracts, attending member meetings, and engaging with her employer in meaningful ways.
At just 22, even Kaylyn is surprised that she’s become exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up.
Read more about Kaylyn and other women working against the grain in Rochester Women magazine.