BRINGING ON-THE-JOB KNOWLEDGE TO THE CLASSROOM
When Paul Coone was hired as a seasonal worker for the City of New Hope in 1980, he had no idea he would continue working for the city and be the Public Works Operations Manager three decades later. That’s where he is today. Since 2011, he has been sharing that on-the-job knowledge with students enrolled in the Public Works program at Hennepin Technical College, an opportunity he really enjoys.
“I don’t have a degree, but look where I am,” says Coone with enthusiasm. “I tell the students, ‘Never stop going to school. You’ve got to keep learning.’” He explains to his students that he spent a couple of years as a seasonal worker and then was hired as a maintenance worker for New Hope in 1982. He was promoted to his first supervisory position after completing a certificate program at a local college. Through the years, Coone has continued taking classes to enhance what he learned on the job. So what’s the best part about a career in public works?
“No two days are alike and you get to use your hands and your head,” says Coone. “It’s like being a kid in a sandbox because you get to work with all the equipment you thought would be cool when you were a kid.” According to Coone, today’s equipment is much more user-friendly than when he began his career. Dump trucks now operate with push button electronics and there is air conditioning in all the vehicles.
“Public works is really all about service,” says Coone, noting that with retirees making way for new employees in cities, now is a great time for people with public works training to begin a career. HTC training is completed in two semesters, plus a summer internship. Coone teaches Introduction to Municipal Utilities, which allows him to share what he learned as utilities supervisor for New Hope from 1997 to 2005. He also oversees the internship program for HTC’s Public Works program, helping students find internship opportunities. It’s one more thing he enjoys about being an instructor at HTC.
“Every teacher probably feels this way, but the best part about being an instructor is when you’re trying to get a point across to the students and you see the light go on,” explains Coone. “It’s that moment when you know you’ve gotten through to them.”
Coone is proud to be preparing the next generation for careers in public works. He notes that employment experts predict high turnover in public works jobs in the next five years as longtime employees retire. A typical maintenance worker starts at $20 to $21 an hour, plus benefits.
For Paul Coone, what started as a seasonal job with the City of New Hope turned into a decades-long career in public works. Sharing his on-the-job knowledge with HTC students gives them a real-world view while they’re still in the classroom.
Last updated by jhanson : 2016-07-27 10:38:36