Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Jeff Miller. I work at Minnesota State as the Career Pathways Director and have been in this role since August of 2018. My work here is one of the most rewarding professional experiences I have ever been a part of; I get to work with many great people every day.
What excites you the most about your current work?
The connection between secondary and postsecondary career and technical educators, the community and technical colleges, and business and industry partners is rather extraordinary. These communities are partnership networks, seamlessly connecting high school students to various industry sectors and partnering with local Minnesota State colleges to ensure a successful transition into the workforce. I am amazed every day! On top of that, I’m always learning about new career fields that I’m not familiar with.
I grew up in Tioga, a small town in northwest North Dakota. This part of the state is rich in natural resources. Oil, gas, and agriculture are the major employers driving North Dakota’s economy. After spending time on a farm with my family, I knew I wanted a career working with my hands. I chose to enroll in carpentry school.
I had no skills when I started college. Luckily, for me, I was able to learn the craft and really enjoyed the experience of learning new skills. I was also fortunate to work for a local general contractor that self-performed all the work we did with five full-time people. I gained valuable experience in all aspects of the craft from site work to completion on residential, commercial, and industrial projects. I’m actively involved in the construction industry. Since 1996 I’ve worked on thousands of projects in various roles from a carpenter to a manager. My wife Amy and I live in Isanti and I continue to build and learn new aspects of the carpentry craft.
What do others need to know about Career and Technical Education?
Career and Technical Education is the backbone of this country. It’s 2019 and this is not our parent’s “vo tech.” Career and Technical Education is more advanced than it has ever been—it is complex, it is engaging. It has proven to get people ready to enter and advance employment.
For example, the construction industry is radically different today than when I started. A building project is so much more than just putting parts and pieces together. The entire process is a science—the way the building interacts with the environment and its surroundings is a science. Every project requires knowledge in math, physics, geography, ecology, and art.
Carpentry is so much more than pounding nails and cutting boards. Workers are learning skills that are quite rigorous. Students are learning concepts that interact with millions of dollars’ worth of equipment. The way that we learn today is vastly different than it was 20 years ago. We’re using more technology in workplaces and in the classroom—it’s not better, just different. I owe everything in my life to the construction industry and I know that I am always employable with the skills gained through carpentry.
Can you think of a technical skill that every person should learn?
There is not one specific technical skill that everyone must know, but I would say that in today’s world, it’s so critical to learn how to seek out reliable information, gather resources to make informed decisions, think critically, be a problem-solver and don’t be scared to try new things—to learn something new. I guess I’m saying the soft skills are important!
I think people often forget that it’s near impossible to know everything about a career or technical occupation because they change so quickly. You will not likely be the boss on your first day on the job. But with hard work, dedication, commitment, perseverance, and grit, it won’t be too long before you can move into a supervisory role, if that’s what you want to do.
Learn how to sew a button on your shirt. That is a valuable technical skill!