Mitch Mclntyre

Mitch Mclntyre – a 23-year-old Local 49 member from Cresco, Iowa – has been soaking up as much knowledge as he can at the Operating Engineers Local 49 Training Center during the off-season. So much so that he enrolled in the Training Center’s Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) class on a Monday and passed the CDL test – obtaining his CDL – on that Friday.

Mclntyre explained that while it was his first time driving a commercial sized vehicle, he picked up the lessons very quickly.

“It’s a lot of information in four days, and it wasn’t easy,” Mclntyre said. “ But Randy Parker (CDL Instructor at the Training Center) is a good guy and a great instructor so I give my hats off to him for teaching me the way he did.”

Mclntyre also noted that he received a 100% score on the pre-trip portion of the CDL test. The pre-trip portion of the test is designed to test your ability to check a variety of commercial vehicle safety equipment and vehicle components. This portion happens before you take the driving component of the test.

“I was told it was the best score on a pre-trip that they (Minnesota Department of Motor Vehicle Services) have seen in a long time, so I was pretty proud of that,” he said.

Mclntyre currently works for Rochester Sand and Gravel, and has only been a member of Local 49 since November 2016, but says he has learned so much through his employer and by attending classes at the Training Center.

“So far at the Training Center I’ve taken the stakes and grades class, small equipment class, OSHA 30, and I also did the asphalt and paving class,” Mclntyre said.

Mclntyre is also active in Local 49 and encourages younger members to attend their local monthly union meeting.

“For those that don’t go, you should because there is a lot more information that you probably don’t know about including your benefits,” Mclntyre explained. “Some of the benefits and other things are changing so you have to keep up on that stuff.”

Even thought Mclntyre is fairly new to the industry he is enjoying his time and encourages other younger people make this career choice.

“It can be long hours, but the money is great, and you don’t only get free training you also get really great health benefits,” Mclntyre explained. “And you know your business agent is there to help you, so there’s a lot of great opportunities with the 49ers.”

Mclntyre’s final advice to those looking to get in the heavy equipment industry is getting into an apprenticeship program.

“Get in an apprenticeship program like the 49ers, you don’t have to go to college to earn a good living, there’s a lot of great opportunities with Local 49,” he said.

For more stories like Mitch’s visit


Jesse Lindgren

Jesse Lindgren has more than 20 years experience in the underground construction industry before being brought on part-time as the Sewer and Water Instructor at the Local 49 Training Center.

After graduating high school, Lindgren went into the construction industry and says he’s always worked in some type of underground construction.

“My buddy’s dad owned the first company I worked for and for the first four years I traveled all over the U.S. replacing manholes,” he said.

In order to be closer to home, Lindgren began to work for a sewer and water contractor as a Laborer – Local 563. “I was part of Laborers 563 for 10 years where I started as the bottom man laying pipe,” Lindgren said.

He eventually worked his way up to operating loaders, dozers and even operating the main line backhoe. He became a member of Local 49 when he started working for Kuechle Underground, and has been there for 10 years.

“I do want to thank Jerome Kuechle who took a chance and hired me when work was slow…I wouldn’t be where I am today without all of the contractors who hired me,” Lindgren said.

Lindgren says being in the sewer and water industry can be stressful due to the exact precision and attention to detail that is needed.

“Running the main line backhoe is definitely the most challenging part of the job,” Lindgren said. “You have to worry about utilities, if you’re digging in a safe ditch, and you’re also kind of setting the pace for the rest of the crew…they can only put in the pipe so fast behind you.”

Lindgren said he was up at the Local 49 Training Center taking classes himself when he heard of the part-time sewer and water instructor opportunity.

“I heard what the job entailed and I thought it would be a good fit for me,” he said.

As the part-time Sewer and Water Instructor at the Local 49 Training Center he teaches members the basics of performing sewer and water work.

“During the four week class we do a 17 ft. deep cut, a 10 ft. deep sewer cut, and they learn how to bury water main and storm sewer,” he said.

Lindgren says that as an instructor it took him a little while to learn how to explain something he has done for years in a classroom setting.

“Once I explain something in the classroom, and then we go out and do it in the field and I watch them (members) get it and understand it, it makes me feel really good,” he said. “What they learn is something they can always take with them, especially since there’s such a need for this type of work.”

“It’s a tough job, there’s long hours and it’s fast paced,” Lindgren added. “Everybody is in a certain position and every position needs to pull their own weight, but it’s a successful and rewarding career.”

Lindgren also takes time in his classes to educate members on the importance of getting involved in the union, and all of the benefits they have access to.

“About three years I started getting more involved in union meetings, and it feels good to make it those meetings to see what kind of work is out there and hear what’s going on that affects us,” Lindgren said.

Lindgren added, “The more people that get involved, the more people are (then) aware of the issues we’re facing, which makes us a stronger union.”

For more stories like Jesse’s visit


Fritz Panek

Fritz Panek has more than 40 years experience in the construction industry before being brought on part-time as the large heavy equipment instructor at the Operating Engineers Local 49 Training Center. “I can run any piece of equipment when it comes to dirt work,” said Panek.

Panek grew up on a dairy farm, and graduated from high school in 1973. Panek said the day after he graduated he was immediately on a push-cat dozer. “My dad had a little construction company with a couple of dozers and scrapers so I went to work for him, and worked for him for about seven years,” Panek said.

In April of 1980 is when Panek got his first chance to work with a union contractor. “I worked for Blatner where I worked on (Interstate Highway) I35 East on Cedar Avenue, but I also worked all over the country for them.”

In 1988 Panek took a career leap and started his own business with his three brothers. “I felt there was a niche for what I was going to be doing, and I had a gravel pit on my own farm so I didn’t have to buy gravel, which helped me a lot to get started,” he said about starting his own business. “I started out with just a dump truck and a loader, and then later down the line I invested in a crusher, conveyors and excavators,” Panek continued.

Panek eventually sold his business in 2005 to a local contractor, and went into semi-retirement until 2009 when the health insurance market changed, and his wife Mary switched careers. “It was in 2009 when the health insurance market got out of hand when I went back into the union to become an operator,” stated Panek. “Local 49 has way better health insurance than just about anybody; we get everything covered.”

Panek worked for Kuechle Underground out of Kimball, MN for a few years then worked for Landwehr and Hardrives before being presented with the offer of becoming a part time instructor at the Local 49 Training Center. “It’s very rewarding that you get to help people advance in their training and career,” Panek said of the opportunity.

Panek currently teaches large heavy equipment classes, but says his favorite is the loaders. “I have over 35 years of experience with loaders so I like to think I know what I’m talking about,” Panek said with a laugh.

Panek says he stresses to his classes the importance of being involved in the union and knowing the issues that affect them and their work. “I’ve been way more involved than when I was younger, and I do preach about that during my classes,” Panek said. “I keep them up to date with what’s going on with Right to Work issues and stuff on the (Local 49) website.”

Panek also educates members on the importance of knowing about all of the benefits that are available to them and their family. “I talk to them about the insurance and about the health meetings,” said Panek. “I went to my first one in 2010, and I didn’t know half of the stuff we had, so I try to educate them about all of the information.”

Panek particularly encourages the younger members about how being in Local 49 can not only lead you to a good job, but a long-lasting career. “There is always roads that are going to need to be built and structures to put up, so if you’re willing to put in the time and work, this is a great and rewarding career.”

For more stories like Fritz’s visit


Hailey Lislegard

Born and raised on the Iron Range, Hailey Lislegard has always had a love for operating heavy equipment.

“I am from a long line of miners from the Iron Range that goes back generations,” Lislegard said.

Lislegard, a two-year Local 49 member, said her passion for operating equipment began when she was growing up riding tractors with her grandfather on the farm.

After Lislegard graduated high school she enrolled in the heavy equipment program at Central Lakes College. While in school, she gained sponsorship from the Operating Engineers Local 49 Training Center.

“After I graduated high school I started as a temp, running equipment for the city of Aurora,” Lislegard said. “Then I went to school and worked two years paving, and after that I finally had the opportunity to be an apprentice for Local 49 at the Training Center.”

Even before she officially became a Local 49 Apprentice, Lislegard said that she was already familiar with Local 49 and their training opportunities. “Local 49 is a big deal up here. The apprenticeship program is a great opportunity to practice and improve your skills, and it also provides a safe way to learn new equipment,” Lislegard stated.

Lislegard is currently in the Local 49 Training Center’s Crane Apprenticeship program, and says she absolutely loves operating cranes.

“You have a lot of respect for what you’re running,” she explained. “It’s a whole different world and pace operating a crane versus dirt equipment. It’s different every day, sometimes it’s constant and then some days it’s slow and you focus on taking care of the equipment.”

During her time as a crane apprentice, Lislegard has also had some great on-the-job experiences working on various projects. She started by working for Lakehead Constructors, where she worked on the Highway 53 Bridge Project in Virginia, MN.

“After completing a project with Lakehead Contractors, I was then hired by Kiewit, the general contractor of the Highway 53 Bridge Project,” Lislegard said.

It was during her time with Kiewit she had the opportunity to be around one of the largest cranes in the world. “I got to see a lot of things I never expected to see, I got a lot of seat time and I was blessed with some amazing operators to learn from,” Lislegard said.

Lislegard noted that one highlight of the crane apprenticeship program with the Local 49 Training Center is the amount of on-the-job training there is. “The nice thing with crane apprenticeship is you get a lot of one-on-one time with someone who is seasoned,” she said. “With dirt equipment you can learn by doing, but with cranes it’s nice to have a coach nearby.”

After her time working on the Highway 53 Bridge Project, Lislegard worked at the famous Soudan Underground Mine Project, which is a half-mile underground project.

“Our job there is to actually take apart the lab since they’re moving to a different location,” Lislegard said. The Soudan Underground Laboratory is a general-purpose science facility, which provides the deep underground environment required by a variety of sensitive experiments. The Lab currently hosts two large projects for the University of Minnesota.

Working underground in the mines is new experience for Lislegard, but she says once you’re at the underground site it’s like a big shop. “You first go down what looks like an elevator that’s lowering you down at about 8 miles per hour for about a half a mile,” Lislegard explained. “You don’t know how dark it can get; there is absolutely no sunlight.”

Lislegard is currently finishing up her second year in the crane apprenticeship program, and says that the opportunities she has received from the Local 49 Training Center has had a positive impact on her life. “This has been the best decision for me; I make a pretty good wage for a 23-year-old, I have health insurance and I know a lot of people my age that are going to college that don’t have any of that stuff yet,” she said.

“If college isn’t for you, I would definitely look into Local 49 and the Local 49 Apprenticeship Program,” Lislegard added.

For more information and for more stories like Hailey’s visit


Nick Tangen

Nick Tangen credits his father, a Local 49 operator for 30 years, for getting him interested in the industry.

“My dad often told me it’s not always easy work, but it’s the best union to be a part of, raise a family on and know you’re secure,” said Tangen who has been in the Local 49 Crane Apprenticeship Program for a year and a half.

Tangen has completed both Phase One and Phase Two of the Crane Apprenticeship Program, and says it’s a lot more work than what the public may believe.

“It’s a lot more complex than I ever thought; I think to the public it looks like we’re just sitting there pulling levers, but there’s so much more to it than that,” Tangen stated.

While Tangen is focused on operating cranes, he said he is looking forward to taking other classes to broaden his heavy equipment knowledge.

“I really want to take a pile-driving class and get into more of the dirt side—just to expand my knowledge in case I ever need to find a job that isn’t crane related,” Tangen said.

While in the Apprenticeship Program, Tangen received some real on-the-job experience working for several contractors such as Vic’s Crane Service, Lunda Construction and Schroder Crane Rental.

“You really do learn 90 percent of what you need to while out in the field,” Tangen said. “Everyone is more than willing to help you prosper in this field.”

Tangen said one of his more memorable on-the-job experiences was working at the St. Paul Park Refinery.

“Refineries are incredibly safe, and they do everything by the book so I got to learn how to tear down and move cranes around, and how to make the perfect pic,” he said.

“Refineries are a different ball game than building a bridge, for example, so I thought it was memorable learning how the refineries do it compared to everyone else,” Tangen added.

Tangen said that the Apprenticeship program prepared him for his real on-the-job experiences.

“The Training Center provides an opportunity for us to get all of the training we need to be the best operators we can be,” Tangen said. “We have an amazing union and great teachers at the Training Center that give us the training and opportunity we need to succeed.”

Tangen also noted that he makes it a point to try and make it to every union meeting and encourages every member – particularly younger members – to attend.

“What they are explaining at the meetings is about you, and it’s going to better our union and our work,” Tangen said. “We’re talking about stuff that affects us that can either make or break us as a union. If there’s one thing you do, go to a union meeting.”

For more information on the Training Center and more stories like Nick, visit


Union Meetings at the Training Center!

The Local 49 Training Center will be hosting Union Meetings every fourth Wednesday of the month in February, March and April!

The Union Meetings are for members only and they will begin at 4 PM on Feb. 22, March. 22 and April 26.

Business Agents from all over Local 49’s jurisdiction will be attending the meetings as well to answer questions members may have.

For more information please contact the Training Center at 320-384-7093.

Local 49 Training Center Address: 40276 Fishtail Road Hinckley, MN 55037

Sealed Bid Auction Begins!

The Operating Engineers Local 49 Training Center is having a sealed bid auction for these Skidsteer Leveling Bar attachments, measuring 48 x 72, that were made by our Union members that attended the welding classes! The auction begins January 11 and will end on February 15th. The bids begin at $200 and the money will go toward future welding class necessities.

Click here for more information on how to place bids!

Steve Tuhy

Steve Tuhy has transitioned from being an apprentice at the Operating Engineers Local 49 Training Center, to landing a job as an instructor/mechanic at the Training Center to now being their Apprenticeship Coordinator.

However Tuhy grew up on a farm and has been around equipment his entire life, so it was only natural that he decided to pursue a career with heavy equipment.

Tuhy attended Central Lakes College, but after graduation began the Operating Engineers Local 49 Apprenticeship Program in 2005.

“After I graduated that’s when I first found out about the apprenticeship program,” Tuhy said. “But I knew I always wanted to go union.”

Tuhy’s first couple years in the Apprenticeship Program he was hired on part time by the Training Center as an operator/mechanic.

During that time, he was part of the crew that worked on the site prep for the current Operating Engineers Local 49 Training Center building, and in the wintertime he worked in the shop.

“We were pounding the silt fence in for a couple weeks as site prep for the Training Center, and I ran some of the equipment at the site,” Tuhy said.

In 2012, Tuhy was brought on full time to the Training Center as a full time instructor and mechanic.

“My first time instructing a class I had only about three weeks to prep for the class, so it was definitely a new experience for me – at the time – but I really enjoyed it,” he said.

In the summer of 2016, Tuhy was hired on full time by the Local 49 Training Center as an Apprenticeship Coordinator.

As the Apprenticeship Coordinator, Tuhy is responsible for transitioning apprentices throughout the program, and tries to be a mentor to apprentices.

“You’re kind of a mentor to them as far as if they have questions about the industry, problems on the job and then making sure that they’re taking the proper classes,” he said.

Tuhy said that if he could give any advice to high school students who may be unsure if college is for them is to let them know there are other options.

“You don’t have to go to school to get a very rewarding career, and be able to take care of your family at a very livable wage,” Tuhy said. “And you don’t have to have the student debt.”

Tuhy said that when he goes out and visits with high school students another common theme is not everyone is a good fit for a “desk job.”

“Some people are not meant to sit behind a desk or in a classroom, but they are hands on learners,” he said. “The Training Center is great for that because most of the training is hands on.”

The Training Center offers apprentices the opportunity to “earn while you learn” which is a huge factor when students are looking for a career path after high school, or if someone is looking for a career change.

“You’re making money while you’re learning a trade,” he said. “You’re learning a career and that’s the biggest thing I’ve pushed to these new apprentices.”

“This isn’t just a job; it’s a career path,” Tuhy added.

When speaking to new apprentices, Tuhy says in addition to the positives about the Apprenticeship Program, he also talks to them about the reality of the construction industry.

“You have to want this industry,” he said. “They (apprentices) have to understand that you’re going to travel, and it does take a whole family, at times, to be understanding and committed.”

While the industry can be demanding at times, Tuhy stresses to apprentices that it is a positive and rewarding experience beginning as an apprentice, earning while you learn and growing your skills as an operator to further their career.

“I always tell them (apprentices) to never stop learning, and to keep growing their skills,” he said. “You get as much out of this career as you put into it.”

For more information on the Local 49 Apprenticeship Program please visit












Russell Rask

Local 49 member, Russell Rask of Gilbert, MN, has been a part of the Operating Engineers Local 49 Apprenticeship Program for a year, and will shortly begin Phase II of the program.

While an unfortunate event brought Rask to the Training Center, he now says this has been a positive experience.

“I got laid off in the mines up there…I was working at U.S. Steel Minntac, but I had been talking with Dan Snidarich (Local 49 Virginia Business Agent) for a while, and he told me he would help me get into the apprenticeship program,” Rask explained.

Rask said that he had previous experience operating heavy equipment, so that had helped him transition well into the apprenticeship program.

Rask said that he has been everywhere from building mines up on the Iron Range, to operating pile-drivers in Wayzata to now working on the St. Croix Crossing Bridge project for Lunda Construction Co.

While Rask may be a new member of Local 49, he said he’s no stranger to heavy equipment.

“I’ve been around heavy equipment all my life…changing tires and stuff, but I guess this is the first time I’ve been actually running the equipment,” he said.

“It’s actually been quite nice being the one sitting in the driver’s seat instead of the one wrenchin’ on them all the time,” he laughed.

Rask said that the Training he received has been great, and is eager to continue training this winter.

“I’ll go back here in February and start Phase II of the program, hopefully I’ll be able to get as much class time as I can,” Rask said.

Rask said the classes he has signed up for range from small equipment operation to tower crane classes.

He is also looking forward to receive training from a former co-worker, Ryan O’Gary, who has recently been hired as a new instructor at the Local 49 Training Center.

“I’m happy to train with him in Phase II since I previously worked with him at Lunda,” Rask said.

For more information on the Operating Engineers Local 49 Apprenticeship Program please visit



Lisa Klankowski

Lisa Klankowski, a five-year member of Local 49 and current apprentice at the Operating Engineers Local 49 Training Center, has worked her way up from operating small equipment doing dirt work to now operating cranes at the St. Croix River Crossing Bridge project for Lunda Construction Co.

However, prior to her time as a heavy equipment operator, she said her life was much different.

“I was working in a call center and I absolutely despised it,” she said.

That all changed when five years ago she met Rochester business agent Clayton Johnson, and talked to him about some possible career opportunities.

“I told him I hate office jobs and to give me a call if he had any openings,” Klankowski said. “That spring he called me, and I started working for Hoffman Construction down in Plainview (Minnesota).”

Klankowski said once she landed her first job, she then started going up to the Training Center and taking as many classes as she could.

After being on a jobsite for a couple years, she took interest in operating cranes and decided to pursue it.

“At that time I was still doing dirt work, and I didn’t start the cranes until a year or two into the dirt program,” she said.

“I like having a challenge, and with a crane it’s a daily challenge,” she added.

As far as being an apprentice, and being new to operating cranes, Klankowski said it can be intimidating at first.

“You walk in and just think, I don’t know anything,” she said. We do a few weeks of schooling beforehand, but it’s a whole new world on the job site.”

Klankowski said the training she received at the Training Center was “awesome”, and liked that the instructors can work with all skill levels.

“You go up to the Training Center and all of the teachers are so knowledgeable, and they can kind of gauge you in your own skill level,” she said.

“You have people (apprentices) up there that are lower in skill level, and some are up higher, but the instructors are great with adjusting to that,” she added.

In addition to great training, Klankowski said the Training Center also helps apprentices find jobs.

“Then, they get you out to jobs where there is so much going on, and so much opportunity for moving up in the world,” she said.

Klankowski said she isn’t stopping her training as she continues through the apprenticeship program with Local 49 Training Center, and soon will be graduating from the apprenticeship program.

“It’s all about paying attention, and soaking up as much information as you can,” she said.

For more information on the Operating Engineers Local 49 Apprenticeship program please visit