Meet Chris Hensiak, welding instructor at Hennepin Technical College.
I met him while researching a story about work being done to help lives in inner-city Minneapolis. His school is partnered with a north Minneapolis nonprofit to provide welding and machining education to local young adults.
The demand, on both ends, is high.
“They’ll take as many guys as I can feed them,” he says of local power companies.
Young adults arrive to find “hidden jobs they never heard about. Schools have this theory that everyone has to go to four year college,” he said.
Chris is the Minnesota Mike Rowe.
Mike Rowe is the TV host who’s become famous in recent years for his programs about blue collar work in America. By hosting these programs, Rowe discovered that these jobs weren’t just interesting to learn about–they were in need of good workers. Then he uncovered the stone causing this: a systemic undervaluing of hard work in America preventing young people to not just shy away from physically demanding work but to shy away from hard work in general.
Chris Hensiak echoes these sentiments. But this attitudinal hurdle isn’t his only obstacle. The guys he works with–the ones in the inner-city who most need the jobs–are also the ones at a higher rate of not qualifying. Working at a power plant or oil refinery means needing to have no criminal record according to guideline set by US Homeland Security.
But he’s not deterred. The need is there, and the jobs “pay huge,” he said. It’s rewarding to work with the guys he does get qualified, to train them for a career they can be proud of. Today, in fact, he’s got a class of eight guys who are going to try welding for the first time.