Minnesota Department of Transportation

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Civil Rights

Committed to equality in transportation service

Spotlight on Success: OJT Trainee of the Month

Celebrating the accomplishments of those breaking new ground in highway construction

The Minnesota Department of Transportation’s On-the-Job Training (OJT) Program is a much-needed on-ramp for people of color, women, and disadvantaged persons looking to start – and build – careers in highway construction.

Contractors participating in the OJT program are currently employing 160 approved trainees on highway, county, and city construction projects across the state.

All of these OJT trainees have unique backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives to share and celebrate. In recognition, MnDOT Office of Civil Rights will be sharing their stories through our monthly “Spotlight on Success: OJT Trainee of the Month” feature. We invite and encourage you to check in regularly for updates.

March 2019: Johnny Foster

It’s a question we’re all confronted with at a very early age: What do you want to do with your life?

Johnny FosterWhile the answer is clear for a lucky few, it’s murky for most. In fact, the pressure to find the “right fit” can sometimes be so great people end up just moving between a series of jobs rather than pursuing fulfilling careers.

As frustrating as this is, the reality is that things can change with just a little bit of courage and a great deal of persistence. To illustrate, consider the experience of Johnny Foster, March’s OJT Trainee of the Month.

After years spent working temporary jobs in various industries, Johnny decided to take a chance by listening to the advice of a friend and enrolling in the MnDOT DEED training program. This five-week course provides training focused on preparing graduates to pursue careers in highway heavy construction.

The decision proved life-changing.

“[I] thought you had to know someone to get into the [highway heavy construction] industry. If I knew what I know now, I would have attempted to get in sooner,” he said. “The MnDOT DEED program was like a head start.”

Empowered by his training, Johnny chose to pursue a career that wasn’t just available right now, but rather was the right fit.  He turned down an immediate offer to work as a finisher following his May 2018 graduation. Indeed, he ultimately secured a position with Ames Construction only a month later as a laborer, starting on the dirt crew and moving onto the pipe crew – his destination of choice.

“I was very persistent and attended career fairs,” he said. “I always made a point to talk to the contractors so they knew who I who I was.”

This tenacity is paying dividends at work and at home.  Johnny has completed over 1,000 hours of project work, 150-plus hours of apprenticeship training, earned multiple certifications, and now has a place to call his own.