Edwin Rogel drove 16 hours from Texas to Sioux Falls to be closer to his girlfriend’s family as they prepare to be new parents, while Cameron Heyliger left his Kentucky bartending job to become a union apprentice in South Dakota. They both knew they wanted to work in the trades, either driven by experience or a passion to do more.

“My first job was stocking shelves, and I had never really worked in construction. The idea of working in the trades is very different in El Salvador, the country I’m from. Then I got connected with Olympic here, and I’ve been learning about drywall, taping and finishing—doing a little bit of everything on the job site,” said Rogel, who has been with the company for over a month.

He says he has fallen in love with the city, especially the easier-driving traffic here compared to Austin, Texas. “I really love it when you start to visualize what you’re building is going to look like, and then you get to see it as a finished project. I also really like that I’m doing something physical,” said Rogel. “In construction, you’re around people all the time—you hear the welders or the chop saw, and you can smell and hear the environment.”

For Heyliger, who was bartending and mainly working customer service jobs in Kentucky, moving to Sioux Falls came easy as he was thinking of his future and interest in carpentry. He learned of available apprenticeship programs and decided on Sioux Falls because he was attracted to the weather and the size of the city, which were similar to his hometown in Colorado. “I like winter, and that was a big part of my decision, especially after living in humid Kentucky. I tend to get along better with people with a rural mindset because I really enjoy the outdoors. South Dakota is just a very beautiful state,” said Heyliger.

When asked why he decided to follow a path in the trades, he said, “I’ve always wanted to acquire the skill of being able to build things. For a while, I thought it was too late to start [something new], but then soon realized that there was nothing holding me back.”

Heyliger says he wanted to do something more productive and tangible. “I feel like I’m contributing more by doing this—you’re making a structure that people will use for years to come. I think that’s pretty cool.”

Heyliger and Rogel are both new to construction and fairly fresh to working for Olympic Companies, but they already have a vision of what their path will look like in the near future. They are seizing the opportunities to learn and build their career through the apprenticeship program sponsored by Olympic Companies S.D. through the Carpenters Training Institute, the training and continued education arm of the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters.

“I want to learn everything I can and stay with Olympic for a long time. And maybe even be a foreman. I want to be a good worker and learn all that I can so I can be a good teacher,” said Rogel. “I’m most excited to have this skill for the rest of my life, which is why I’m trying to learn it well. I like the idea that I can go work anywhere because people need buildings. I also like the idea of being able to use my skills to make the community a little better,” said Heyliger.

For over 20 years, Olympic Companies S.D. has sponsored crew members for the apprenticeship program. As union members, apprentices at Olympic sign up for a four-year program in which they attend classes four times a year for one week while working for the company.