Laura Yoder is among the thousands of Midwest union construction workers who are reenergizing Minnesota’s energy future.
Lanesboro, Minnesota — Local 405 union member and laborer, Laura Yoder takes pride in working on projects that support Minnesota’s clean energy future. From pipelines and natural gas lines to wind farms, Yoder and thousands of Minnesota’s union construction workers are building the next generation of energy infrastructure to ensure the safest and best built clean energy future for the state.
“I’ve worked on pipelines and natural gas lines for a number of years near Owatonna,” Yoder said. “Pipeline construction was some of my favorite work because I enjoyed exploring the complex network that runs below our cities.”
Yoder recalled working on a natural gas pipeline project about 10 years ago where she installed a 36-inch diameter pipe that ran from south central Minnesota to Duluth.
“The line would go directly to homeowners and help meet some commercial energy needs,” Yoder said. “We often take for granted important energy infrastructure work that we rely on every day to heat our homes, cook, and generate the electricity we need to support our community needs.”
New Career Direction and New Experiences
After having her son Chance in 2014 Yoder decided she needed to find work that was closer to home. She located work 40 minutes from Lanesboro, Minnesota, where she and a team would help reenergize a wind farm.
Yoder, who had never worked on a wind farm before, didn’t know what to expect from the experience.
“I learned that reenergizing wind turbines is needed when new blades are added or replaced — in most cases, the new blades are larger, so we need to reinforce the base of the turbines and extend the platform to support the weight,” Yoder said.
With the encouragement of her union, Local 405, Yoder obtained additional training to develop her expertise in working on wind farm construction projects.
Apprenticeship programs and local unions such as Local 405, provide on-the-job training for people such as Yoder and may also offer certifications and updated education courses to ensure that crews working on the state’s energy infrastructure have the highest levels of quality and safety knowledge to best equip them for the jobsite.
Yoder earned a certification in working with piston plug anchor systems and also scored the highest in her class earning an American Concrete Institution Certification (ACI).
On the jobsite, Yoder and the team marked where holes would be drilled in the base of the turbine, installed rebar and used epoxy to fill and set dowels before the concrete was poured.
“We marked and filled about 140 holes and inserted 12 unique rebar pieces on each turbine,” Yoder said. “The turbines are good for about 12 years. My jobsite specifically worked on 43 turbines, but there were more than 100 turbines on site, so I expect there will be an ongoing demand for construction professionals who specialize in windfarm development, construction and maintenance for many years to come.”
Yoder’s work on a wind farm and her union’s participation represent how local union construction workers will have a variety of long-term career paths available to them as they sustain Minnesota’s future energy infrastructure landscape.
“I’m proud that we — as a country and as a state of Minnesota — are taking the initiative to invest in and utilize our natural resources,” Yoder said. “We’re not paying foreign countries or outsourcing, we’re being smart about it and using what we already have here — the wind and the sun — to make our country a better place.”
Benefits of Choosing a Career in Construction
“Wind turbines look pretty new age, but at the end of the day we need to be able to provide heat and electricity to our homes and businesses,” Yoder said. “I see the work I do directly impact me and my family; I want to be a part of building a better future for my son and my career as a union laborer lets me do that.”
The Minnesota State Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents 15 building and construction unions and more than 70,000 union construction workers, wants Minnesotans to understand the critical link between good-paying union jobs and the energy they use to power their homes and businesses.
“I make an economic difference,” Yoder said. “Before the pandemic and especially now, I have a good salary and I take my money and reinvest it in the local economy to support those around me.”
On weekends Yoder and her son spend time outside, visiting state parks and they often grab lunch or a snack at small locally owned restaurants.
“We visit a Lanesboro pastry shop for all the best cookies and scones, and I make sure to fill up at local gas stations whether it’s for work or when I spend time with my son,” Yoder said. “I love our quality time.”
Sometimes they even drive past projects Yoder has worked on.
“Chance has never gotten to go onsite at my job. Sometimes he is a little intimidated by all of the large machines and people,” Yoder said. “I think he really appreciates what I do though; he loves talking about my projects and around the house he wears his construction hat — he’s proud and that’s important to me.”