The Twin Cities is ranked the 20th best place in the country for STEM jobs -- jobs that require science, technology, engineering and math. A business owner in Fridley, Minn. says a college degree isn't necessarily the only path to success -- his company offers apprenticeships that can launch employees into a lucrative career.
When Carmelita Hoppenrath moved to Minnesota from the Philippines a few years ago, she considered going to college, but learning to be a machine worker at a Fridley precision metal stamping company turned out to be a better path toward a better life.
"This give you not only the paid job but the knowledge and everything, experience that you can imagine," Hoppenrath said.
Hoppenrath is one of more than a dozen apprentices working at E.J. Ajax, a supplier of metal hinges for 70 percent of the freezers in North America.
The four-year apprenticeship program offers people who are good at math science and engineering a chance to learn highly sought after technical skills without a college degree.
"There are multiple pathways to a successful career and a four-year degree is not the only pathway," E.J. Ajax co-owner Erick Ajay said.
After the recent downturn in the construction business, demand for qualified tradesman is also bouncing back.
"It's a great middle class living. It's one of the last middle class livings out there," Minneapolis Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee spokesman Jim Nimlos said.
Electricians can make up to $80,000 a year, and one local union is hiring 100 apprentices a year -- no college required.
"People can get a two-year electrical construction degrees at a variety of state colleges, but the number of graduates from those programs is very small compared to the need out there right now," Nimlos said.
For Hoppenrath getting her Class A Journey Workers certificate is like getting a college diploma – it's her ticket to a brighter future, and she can't wait to start working on another one.
"I want to keep this as long as I can, even until the age I don't need to work anymore. I want to stay here," she said.