Hennepin Tech Hopes to Attract More Public Works Students
During the warmer months, local cities occasionally bring out their biggest and shiniest vehicles so kids can get an up-close look at the real-life versions of the things in their toy collection.
Paul Coone remembers those days well.
“Growing up in the 60s, we had nothing electronic to play with,” he said. “We had to go outside.”
For 34 years, Coone worked in the public works department for the city of New Hope.
“And you get to drive big cool trucks and operate big cool equipment,” Coone said, describing his New Hope experience.
During those 34 years, he got to live out a dream, working a career that impacted thousands of people.
“It’s the most rewarding career when you live in a city and you drive around after hours or on the weekend and know that you had a part in creating that or maintaining that or building that, and then giving back to the community,” Coone said.
These days, you can find him on the Eden Prairie campus of Hennepin Technical College, where he works as an adjunct faculty member, teaching the next generation of public works employees.
Or at least he’d like to teach the next generation.
Only three students signed up for his public works course, which wasn’t enough for the college to move forward with the class this semester.
“Well there is a lack of awareness,” Coone said. “APWA, the American Public Works Association, on a national level, they don’t do a very good job of promoting public works.”
It’s a job with a starting salary of $60,000 or more. And according to the League of Minnesota Cities, there are more than 200 public works jobs available statewide.
“It’s good employment with great benefits,” Coone said.
It’s good employment that students can pursue after a single semester at Hennepin Tech.
But first, they just need people to re-discover their inner child and sign up.
“It’s just a career that a computer is never going to replace you,” he said.
Meanwhile, on Feb. 8, the APWA provided some context about how they go about promoting public works. The statement says:
The American Public Works Association (www.apwa.net) is a not-for-profit, international organization of more than 30,000 members involved in the field of public works. Each year, APWA highlights public works as a profession through the celebration of National Public Works Week, which is heavily promoted through press releases, proclamations, and social media. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law came to fruition through APWA’s continuous efforts in Washington, DC, and by forming partnerships with other like-minded organizations. APWA members are constantly striving to improve their profession by attending large in-person networking and training events that happen twice yearly, as well as participating in ongoing opportunities for education offered by the Association. The latest in public works technologies are embraced by association members through recognition of the Top Trending Technologies, voted on by members annually.
In November 2017, APWA adopted a national “Public Works First Responder” symbol for use throughout North America to identify public works personnel and acknowledge their federally-mandated role as first responders.
APWA is continuing its efforts to promote public works as a profession through its recently formed APWA Foundation, as well as their Shaping the World of Public Works Booklet designed for secondary students and communities that details working environment, required education, and average salary of public works roles.
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