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Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry

Summit presenter bios

Presenters and panelists at the 2018 Minnesota Apprenticeship Summit include:

Featured speakers

Nicole Bertran

Nicole Bertran is the executive vice president of The Edward J. Malloy Initiative for Construction Skills. Bertran is a member of the New York City Department of Education Career and Technical Education Advisory Council where she chairs the Council's Industry Engagement Commission on Construction and Sustainability. She is also a junior fellow of the United Way of New York City Nonprofit Leadership Development Institute, a recipient of the New York City Mayor's Graduate Scholarship, a graduate of the New York City Leadership Institute, a graduate of the United Association for Labor Education (UALE) Northeast Regional Summer School for Union Women, and holds a certificate in GPRO: Fundamentals of Building Green from the New York chapter of the United States Urban Green Council.

Laura Biggi

Laura Biggie is the national recruitment and outreach coordinator for the United Association of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders and Service Techs Education and Training Department. She is responsible for apprenticeship recruitment materials including brochures and videos, creating partnerships with national career preparation organizations and presenting the opportunities available in the United Association's skilled piping trades to increase membership.

Julie Brockman

Julie L. Brockman, PhD, is an associate professor in the School of Human Resources and Labor Relations. She teaches and consults for Michigan State University's Labor Education Program and the Union Management Initiative. In this capacity, Brockman manages a Department of Labor contract focused on expanding and diversifying apprenticeship and is also the executive director of the Building Trades Academy.

Howard Hipes

Howard Hipes is the apprenticeship and training coordinator for the Michigan Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC) Apprenticeship and Training Fund covering 79 counties in Michigan. He is responsible for the apprenticeship programs of multiple crafts, continuing education for journeyman, mentor coordination, recruitment and course instruction. Hipes is also program coordinator of Michigan Apprentice Readiness and serves on the Michigan Apprenticeship Steering Committee and Genesee Shiawassee Tuscola MiWorks! Workforce Development Board.

Thomas Kriger

Thomas J. Kriger, PhD, is the director of research at North America's Building Trades Unions. From 2008 to 2012 Kriger was professor of labor studies and provost and vice president for academics at the National Labor College. He served as assistant to the president and director of legislation and research for the American Federation of Teacher's largest higher education local, United University Professions (#2190), from 1998 to 2007. Kriger has had faculty positions at the University of Northern Colorado, Providence College and St. Lawrence University and is the author of numerous publications about labor issues.

Allison Liuzzi

Allison Liuzzi is project director at Minnesota Compass where she works with a team of researchers to describe and measure progress on topics related to our shared quality of life in Minnesota. She has particular interest in demographic trends, employment and workforce development and immigration.

Anne McMonigle

Anne McMonigle is the executive director of the Apprenticeship Readiness Fund, a nonprofit of the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council. Anne has headed The Fund since its inception in June 2017, with the mission to sustain quality MC3 Programs throughout the LA/OC region.

Harry Melander

Harry Melander is chair of the Apprenticeship Advisory Board. Melander is currently the president for the Minnesota State Building and Construction Trades Council, a position he has held since 2009, and is employed by Dougherty Funding LLC. He has also served as executive secretary of the St. Paul Building and Trades Council since 2006, and was a business representative for that organization from 1997 to 2006. Prior to that, Melander worked for the Southern District Council of Carpenters and the Minnesota Statewide District Council of Carpenters, both in St. Paul. In total, Melander has 25 years of experience representing unions in the construction industry.



Dave Bellefeuille

Dave Bellefeuille is the director of education and employment for the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs. He oversees the Higher Education Veterans Program along with the Minnesota GI Bill, Minnesota State Approving Agency and Veteran employment initiatives.

Michael D. Carter

Michael D. Carter is the vice president of strategic partnerships for the Winters Groups. His main responsibility is to collaborate with organizations as they begin their diversity and inclusion journey. This includes helping them develop their initial goals, action plan and desired outcomes. He is also an experienced facilitator of intercultural competence education and teaches frequently. In April 2016, he received the President's Circle Award for his contributions to the 3M Company's African American Network. He has also served on many corporate diversity steering committees, task forces and employee affinity groups.

John Christiansen

John Christiansen is the superintendent of Intermediate School District 917 in south suburban Minneapolis/St. Paul. His experience in education includes teaching, building principal and 34 years as a superintendent. His experience includes administration of a post-secondary technical institute, creation of a four-district special education cooperative and leadership of five K-12 school districts.

Moke Eaglefeathers

Moke Eaglefeathers, member of the Northern Cheyenne Nation, has more than 18 years of experience as a cement mason in the Cement Masons, Plasterers & Shophands Local 633 affiliates of Operative Plasterers' & Cement Masons' International Association. He attended the Trapper Creek Job Corps for Cement Masonry and National Labor College for instruction. For the past eight years, Eaglefeathers has been an instructor with the Cement Masons, Plasterers & Shophands JATC Training Center. He is certified as an instructor for OSHA, High Lift, Permit Required Confined Space, PRO-10, and MC3. In 2010, the Department of Labor approached Eaglefeathers to lead an all Native American outreach training program. To date, six Native American Cement Masonry Training Programs have been completed with numerous success stories.

Andrea Ferstan

Andrea Ferstan is vice president of Talent and Workforce for TwinWest Chamber of Commerce, where she leads regional partnerships to support talent attraction, development and retention. She has more than 25 years of experience as a nonprofit leader in education and workforce development with demonstrated success in driving cross-sector partnerships and system improvements, establishing strategic direction, and managing staff.

Carrie Fink

Carrie Fink is project manager for the Minnesota Apprenticeship Initiative (MAI). Prior to joining MAI she worked for the Department of Employment and Economic Development as a grants specialist, trade adjustment assistance specialist, and rapid responder in the Dislocated Worker Program. Fink previously worked for Pillsbury United Communities-Waite House and Lifetrack Resources' youth employment programs.

Larry Gilbertson

Larry Gilbertson is the training director for the Ironworkers Local 512 in St. Paul. Gilbertson began instructing apprentices in 2006, became apprenticeship coordinator in 2008 and was promoted to training director in 2011. He is also a co-chair of Construct Tomorrow and the president of the Apprenticeship Coordinators Association of Minnesota (ACAM).

Kathleen Gordon

Kathleen Gordon is a program consultant with the Minnesota PIPELINE program. Kathleen has extensive experience with project management, higher education, supervision and partnership building. She has worked for the Minnesota State system and before that with Northwest Airlines.

Amanda Gruber

Amanda Gruber, health support specialist at Three Links Care Center on Pathways, began her journey as a nursing assistant in 1995 and started working at Three Links Care Center in 2007. She impacts the lives of the facility's residents lives through daily interactions and the chance to treat the residents with care, respect, dignity and as an important individual.

Greg Hofstede

Greg Hofstede is the manager of operational excellence with Alliance Machine Inc. He has more than 40 years total of contract manufacturing (machining) experience with the majority spent in the aircraft, aerospace, defense, and medical industries. Hofstede spent more than 20 years as a general manager with multiple contract manufacturing companies in Minnesota and has two years of sales experience in contract manufacturing (machining).

Curt Jasper

Curt Jasper works in both human resources and operations at Ajax Metal Forming Solutions, LLC. He transitioned to the manufacturing sector after his 25+ years of military service. His military focus was to train and organize groups for deployments. His current principle duties are onboarding and talent management of colleagues, working processes or systems. He manages the apprenticeship program and facilitates the safety program.

Ruthie Johnson

Ruthie Johnson has a master's degree in communication studies, with an emphasis in intercultural and organizational communication. She brings a broad range of experience to her consulting practice having worked at the city level, the non-profit sector and in multicultural affairs in higher education. She is also an Intercultural Development Inventory Qualified Administrator.

Tom Kennedy

Tom Kennedy is the workforce development manager for Goodwill Easter Seals Minnesota Construction Training program. Before starting his 5-year tenure with Goodwill, Kennedy was a remodeling contractor serving the Twin Cities. With a background in carpentry and general remodeling, he has spent the last 15 years working in and supporting the construction industry as a tradesman, a businessman, and finally an educator working to train and develop the next generation of trades professionals.

Pamela Koehler

Pamela Koehler is the operations and supply chain training manager for Uponor, a global manufacturer of PEX-A tubing for radiant heating/cooling systems and residential and commercial plumbing applications. Its North American manufacturing facility is located in Apple Valley. Koehler has worked for several local organizations including Minnesota Rubber and Plastics as a mold designer/NC programmer, Dunwoody College as an instructor in the engineering design and drafting department, as well as Entegris, Malt-o-Meal and Uponor in operations and manufacturing-focused training manager positions.

Raphael Luchs

Raphael Luchs oversees business development for Buhler North- and Central America to further develop the after sales business and is also heading the build-up of the new business division single machines.

Laura Lutgens

Laura Lutgens joined LeadingAge Minnesota as the health support specialist (HSS) program director in August 2017. She provides support to HSS program site leaders and employees across the state of Minnesota, and provides coaching for transformation of care delivery. Lutgens began her career as a nursing assistant and eventually became a registered nurse. She worked at Three Links in Northfield for many years in nurse management positions, including work as an HSS program site coordinator. In that role, Laura was able to see, first hand, how the HSS registered apprenticeship program changed the lives of the individuals she took care of as well as the employees she helped through the program.

Christa Mardaus

Christa Mardaus entered the Carpenters apprentice program in 2001, and worked on projects ranging from large commercial construction to the wood-frame industry on senior living projects and inside various hospitals and clinics. She then was hired as a carpentry instructor for Twin Cities Training Center and most recently has served as a council business representative.

Norma Miller

Norma Miller is a job developer/coach with the Minneapolis Urban League. She is also a retired union journeywoman painter of 23 years. Miller has served as a delegate to the Building Trades for Local 386 for many years and while working as a consultant to the Minneapolis Urban League she placed numerous participants into the apprenticeship programs through the Labor Education Advancement Program (LEAP).

Dean Mills

Dean Mills is the training and apprenticeship director with the Laborers Training Center. His career began working as a construction craft laborer with Boldt Construction. He has many years of construction field experience. He is ACI certified as a concrete technician and finisher, among other certifications. He started with the Laborers Training Center in 2001 and has been able to take his past work experience and pass it on to new members in a variety of roles.

Angelina Nguyen

Angelina Nguyen manages agency-wide research activities at the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. The department's Research and Statistics unit is building a tool set to help employers calculate apprenticeship return on investment (ROI), including a numeric calculator, a qualitative assessment and a report detailing variables that shape ROI. Nguyen's background is economics, political science, mathematics and public policy.

Jody Paulson

Jody Paulson is the director of administration and recruitment at the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Apprenticeship Training Center. She has been with the BAC for two-and-a-half years. Previous to this position she was a recruiter for a large chain of private colleges and membership director for the third-largest Chamber of Commerce in the Twin Cities. She believes in the opportunities that the Union Construction Trades offers by providing better pay, a better job and ultimately a better life.

Barb Pecks

Barb Pecks has been a carpenter for 18 years; nine years in the field and the previous nine years as a business representative with the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters. She began her path into the trades through a pre-apprentice training program offered by Women Venture. Today, she advocates for the continued use of pre-apprentice programs to expand the workforce. Throughout the past 18 years Peck has been involved with her Local 322, Women in the Trades and Sisters in the Brotherhood. The past 6 years, Peck has been the Midwest District representative for the International Sisters in the Brotherhood group in the United Brotherhood Of Carpenters.

Leslie Philmon

Leslie Philmon is a senior field representative for Apprenticeship Minnesota at the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry where she promotes and develops apprenticeship programs. Her professional experience includes workforce development, workforce training, human resources and higher education. She has worked for a variety of organizations including North Hennepin Community College where she cultivated relationships with community organizations, educational and training institutions, industry and professional groups to capture education opportunities and workforce development programs. Philmon is also a board member for Construct Tomorrow representing government.

Keisha Powell

Keisha Powell is a workforce development manager at Fairview Health Services. Throughout her career she has worked in various recruitment and talent pipeline capacities that led to her current role in workforce development. Powell has a special interest in community partnership, building talent pipelines and working with community partners to bridge the employment gap.

Deqa Sayid

Deqa Sayid has worked with diverse communities at San Diego State University, the University of Minnesota and the International Rescue Committee. Deqa has a mastery certificate from Harvard Medical School in global mental health and refugee trauma. She also has a master's degree in education -- with a concentration on multi-cultural counseling -- from San Diego State University, and a degree in psychology from California State University-San Marcos. Deqa has 16 years of community service experience.

Tiffany Schlueter

Tiffany Schlueter is a machine operator at Ajax Metal Forming Solutions, LLC. She transitioned to Manufacturing from retail in September 2014. She joined the company's apprenticeship program in January 2016. Schlueter started her manufacturing career education with the M-Powered: Metal Forming course at Hennepin Tech and continued through courses from the Minnesota Safety Council, Manufacturing Alliance and Pine Technical College. She earned her Class A Journeyworker Card in December 2017. She is actively continuing her education and currently on the Safety Leadership Team.

acquelynn Mol Sletten

Jacquelynn Mol Sletten, financial aid administrator with the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, has worked in the field of financial aid for eight years. In addition to administering the Dual-Training Grant, she oversees the Minnesota Teacher Shortage Loan Repayment and MnSCU Two-Year Occupational Grant Pilot programs.

Mike Slezak

Mike Slezak is a workforce strategy consultant with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.  His work at DEED focuses on helping employers develop strategic approaches to engage the workforce system and building industry-led sector partnerships in the manufacturing and construction sector. Prior to coming to Minnesota Slezak worked as the senior director of business and workforce services at the Jane Addams Resource Corporation in Chicago.

Dan Solomon

Dan Solomon is a program consultant with the Minnesota PIPELINE Program. Prior to the PIPELINE Program, Dan spent more than a decade in public service working for the United States Senate and Minnesota Senate where he helped lead efforts on education and workforce development.

Jodie Swee

Jodie Swee is an expert on youth culture and has a passion for bridging the gap between
generations. She has been speaking on national stages for more than 15 years to teenagers and young adults with the goal of helping them understand themselves and the world around them. Before joining the XYZ University team, Jodie served as an area director for Young Life, a nonprofit outreach organization for teenagers. In that role she lived at the generational crossroads as she spent countless hours engaging teenagers and young adults in meaningful dialogue while at the same time inspiring and training older adults to do the same.

Amy Tolbert

Amy S. Tolbert, Ph.D., CSP develops multicultural organizations and individuals by bringing you cutting-edge topics, such as, multicultural and diversity initiatives, leadership competency development, managing to style, and creating breakthrough teams. She is principal of Effecting Creative Change in Organizations (ECCO International), which specializes in increasing individuals' productivity and organizations' profitability through e-learning, technology and facilitated learning.

Daniel Villao

Daniel Villao is the deputy administrator for the United States Office of Apprenticeship. He oversees the policy and expansion efforts of the National Apprenticeship system and is tasked with leading these efforts across the U.S. and its territories. Villao is leading the teams charged with the expansion of ApprenticeshipUSA into new sectors working with major employers across the country to help equip their workforce development practices, adapt the national system to meet evolving industry needs, and generate access to family transforming careers. Under his leadership the office of Apprenticeship is modernizing its approach to workforce development, updating how technology supports the American worker's access to quality careers and creating inroads for businesses of all sizes to add a competitive edge by having access to the highly trained technically capable workers they need.

Verena Walther

Verena Walther, senior HR generalist at Buhler Inc., supports the customer service department in the recruiting and development of Buhler's apprentices. She joined Buhler Inc. in 2013 and drove the registration process of the Buhler apprenticeship program with the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. Verena will support Buhler in further developing its apprenticeship program by combining Swiss and American ideas and ideals about professional development through apprenticeship.

Annie Welch

Annie Welch is manager of the PIPELINE Program with the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. Prior to this role, she directed the state's Office of Adult, Dislocated, and Trade-Impacted Worker Services. Her work is consistently informed by her past direct practice in social work, when she supported individuals and families who were experiencing homelessness, individuals living with HIV/AIDS, and newly arriving refugees and their families.