St. Louis County partners with Minnesota North College – Hibbing to offer skilled apprenticeship program for heavy equipment mechanics

by Annika Freiburger

Hibbing, MN-As early as this fall, students in the Diesel Mechanics/Heavy Equipment program at Minnesota North College – Hibbing will have an opportunity to apply for a skilled apprenticeship position with St. Louis County Public Works. This new apprenticeship program will provide valuable real-life experience for students while also helping develop an internal pool of future Heavy Equipment Mechanics for the County.

Heavy Equipment Mechanics are part of the County’s Highway Maintenance Division of Public Works. They are responsible for maintaining the fleet of vehicles used for plowing snow, road construction and other maintenance needs.

County staff have been working with Teamsters Local 320 to develop this skilled apprenticeship program, and the County Board approved the creation of eight part time (0.5 FTE) apprentice positions. Four of the positions will be for first-year students, and the other four for second-year students. The apprentices would be assigned to one of six of the County’s Heavy Equipment Mechanic duty stations. 

“This is a win-win-win scenario,” said Jim Foldesi, St. Louis County Public Works Director. “It’s a win for St. Louis County that may gain future permanent employees, it’s a win for the colleges that can attract students into their program with a ready-made apprenticeship process and it is a win for the students who gain work experience and get paid parallel to their formal schooling.”

“This apprenticeship program will strengthen the workforce by providing learn-and-earn opportunities for students, allowing them to engage in skills application while earning income that will support them during their time in school,” said Jessalyn Sabin, Academic Dean, Career & Tech Education for Minnesota North College. Opportunities such as this one will also serve the county in an environment where workers are needed—the county can connect with future employees throughout the course of their education. Minnesota North College appreciates the county’s efforts to make this happen, and we look forward to a successful apprenticeship program.”

“I am grateful to all parties involved – county staff and my fellow commissioners, the Teamsters, and Minnesota North College – for creating a solution to the ongoing challenge of hiring skilled labor in this tight job market,” said Commissioner Keith Musolf, who chairs the Public Works committee. “Our employees continue to perform admirably despite being short-staffed, so our hope is this will relieve some of the excess workload they’ve been dealing with.”

To learn more about the Diesel Mechanics/Heavy Equipment program at Minnesota North College – Hibbing, visit To learn more about the work of St. Louis County Public Works, visit; or to apply for any position with St. Louis County Public Works, visit The apprentice positions are expected to be posted later this fall.