Cloquet graduate walks away with a lucrative job and a career path

Hunter Finnila will earn more than $20 per hour as an apprentice carpenter with McGough Construction.

Cloquet graduate Hunter Finnila (center) waits for the processional to begin during commencement at Rol Bromberg Field on Friday, May 28, 2021 in Cloquet. The green cord Finnila is wearing shows signifies he is a graduate with a plan and career path. (Clint Austin /

High school graduation is a big moment in any person’s life, but the moment also comes with a little uncertainty about the future.

Some are heading to college and others are looking for their first job.

When Hunter Finnila walked across the stage at Cloquet High School Friday, May 28, he wore a green cord signifying he not only had a plan after graduation, but a career path. Finnila has a job lined up, and he will also be an apprentice carpenter for the North Central States Regional Carpenters with a 40-hour-a-week job with McGough Construction.

(From left) Brian Durand of McGough Construction, recent Cloquet graduate Hunter Finnila and industrial arts teacher Dusty Rhoades show off his sign-on day certificate. Finnila completed all three of Rhoades' construction classes, making him eligible to join the local carpenters union and work for McGough immediately after graduation. (Jamey Malcomb /


Earlier in the day Friday at a small ceremony at Cloquet, Finnila signed his paperwork to join the local carpenters union and to work with McGough. His starting salary will be a little more than $20 per hour with a full benefits package, including health, dental and two pensions.

Finnila has been working in Cloquet industrial arts teacher Dusty Rhoades’ construction classes for several years.

“I’ve been in construction classes since middle school,” Finnila, 18, said. “I pretty much knew I didn’t really want an office job.”

Over the past five years, Rhoades has worked with the carpenters union and others to tailor his construction classes to allow his students to be able to step into a lucrative apprentice job straight out of high school.

“They have to go through all three of my classes,” Rhoades said. “We start off very basic, making simple projects, but they're learning tools that would be used on a construction site. Then each class progresses, they’re a little more complex, a little more intense and a little bit more project-heavy.”

Early projects include bird houses and tool boxes, and then students progress to saw horses, picnic tables and begin framing walls. In the final course, students build fish houses, saunas and finish with 8-foot-by-8-foot garden or storage sheds.

Adam Johnson, a representative of the Local Carpenters Union No. 361, said the partnership with Cloquet and other area schools is imperative to keep young talent flowing into the trades.

“We recognize that we have a lot of retirees that are coming up,” Johnson said. “It’s important for the trades and important for our membership to be able to continue to bring people in.”


After the four-year apprenticeship, Finnila can become a journeyman carpenter.

“This isn’t just a job, this is a career path,” Johnson said. “You’re really starting a career with the four-year apprenticeship program and after that there’s foreman and superintendent training — really, that’s when your career kicks off is once you become a journeyperson.”

Johnson said the program wouldn’t be possible without the support and cooperation of contractors like McGough. Over the past three years, six other Cloquet graduates have signed on with contractors straight out of school and at least five are still working in the industry, according to Johnson.

After graduating from Cloquet, Finnila said he plans to start work Monday, June 7. What’s he going to do with the week?

“I’m going to take a little time off, maybe do some fishing,” he said.

This story was updated at 3:33 p.m. June 1 with a photo and additional information from the Cloquet High School graduation. It was originally posted at 12:55 p.m. May 28.

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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