Apprentices Franz and Ben Cutting Rebar for the Foundation of the New Facilities Project

Franz and Ben Cutting Rebar for the Foundation of the New Facilities Project

In summers past, the Master Stone Mason Apprentice Program has been an integral part of the community life and hands-on education at the Steger Center. Master Masons dedicate four weeks out of their summer to teaching their trade to the a small group of qualified Apprentices. By the end of the program the Apprentices develop the skills and confidence necessary to be proficient in the fundamentals of stone work, technique, and construction. Working along side of the Apprentices are the summer Interns. Working, eating and camping together every day ensures a tight-knit community of Apprentices and Interns who motivate, learn from and teach one another.

Apprentice Josh Working on  the Wall

Apprentice Josh Working on the Wall

Apprentices Ben and John

Apprentices Ben and John

The Apprentice program has evolved over the last several years. This summer the Steger Wilderness Center has made a new partnership with Central Minnesota Jobs and Training Services (CMJTS) to advance the Apprentice program. CMJTS is a nonprofit aiming to “match job seekers, youth, businesses, and those seeking training with resources available to them.” New partnerships such as this allow the program to develop greater opportunities and resources for a more diverse range of individuals.

Apprentice Home Base

Apprentice Home Base

Ryan Redfield, a Youth Employment Specialistfor CMJTS, recruited four young adults to come to the Steger Center for the month go June and join the Apprentice Program. These four participants will be completing a 160 hour paid internship, for which they earn a college credit through Anoka-Ramsey Community College. Prior to arriving at the Steger Wilderness Center they earned a forklift certification from Anoka Technical College. The Apprentices are paid for their labor and provided with a food stipend for the month. By partnering with CMJTS, the Steger Wilderness Center is able to provide beneficial opportunities to four Apprentices who each day are becoming more competent in the trade of stone masonry. When the Apprentices leave at the end of June, they will be job ready, taking their first steps on a new career path in a skill that has been passed down to them from former generations.

summit-logo 175Through Summit Academy OIC, students gain access to high quality training in specialized areas of technology, construction and healthcare. By offering supportive services such as career counseling and planning along with “soft skills” training in the areas of job readiness and leadership development, SAOIC ensures students are well equipped with the technical and professional skills necessary to succeed in the workplace.

In 2008, a unique partnership formed between an arctic explorer and the leader of a North Minneapolis nonprofit that continues to build bridges for individuals from economically challenged neighborhoods.

Summit Team 600Five years ago, Will Steger attended a meeting of H.I.R.E Minnesota – an organization newly founded at the time to ensure public investments in infrastructure and renewable energy lifted people out of poverty, reduced racial disparities and contributed to healthier communities. While at the meeting he met Louis King, president of Summit Academy OIC, who has spent decades in North Minneapolis helping individuals with troubled backgrounds become educated, employed, contributing members of society.

The two have stayed connected over the years as they’ve fought the uphill battle against Minnesota’s racial disparity in unemployment by holding organizations accountable for meeting minority hiring, training and contracting goals on “green” projects.

Will Beth Boonka 600Soon their efforts will converge once more when students enrolled in Summit Academy’s construction training program will travel to Ely, Minnesota to build a cabin adjacent to Steger’s Wilderness Center, a conference retreat facility.

The customized training program was designed to provide students with unique, hands-on carpentry and construction experience while also providing them with the unique experience of building a cabin in the woods.

Final HappyAcres 600Learn more about the students, the project and Summit Academy OIC, which is a Mpls.-based nonprofit accredited educational institution that provides vocational training to individuals from economically depressed neighborhoods.




Program Directors:
Jim JordanJim Jordan, Operations Supervisor, Carpentry



Beth Halvorson

Beth Halverson, On-Site Instructor, Carpentry



For more information visit the Summit Academy OIC website

An integral part of the hands-on education offered by the Center, the apprentice program relies on masters in each field providing mentorship for people interested in developing skills leading to self-sufficiency. This past summer, the Master Stone Mason apprentice program led by Will Steger and resident master stone masons took a major step forward with a six-week engagement of youth learning the trade.

In addition, leaders and instructors from Summit Academy OIC attended the Center this past year for a two-week onsite building project embedded in their curriculum, with the Steger Wilderness Center providing hands-on learning in vital life and trade skills.