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 www.local49training.org.