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Knobelsdorff Commits $500,000 Donation to Local Schools For 'Operation Trades Awareness'

Goodhue, MN — CEO/President Karl von Knobelsdorff of Knobelsdorff (KE) has committed $500,000 over the next 10 years towards “Operation Trades Awareness” (OTA).

OTA’s goal is to build awareness and interest in a variety of trade, STEM and construction career paths offered by KE and local companies to a new generation of learners.

“We hear it over and over; kids don’t want to take the four-year college track and are not aware of the other career paths available," von Knobelsdorff said.

"By working with these seven local school districts to communicate the benefits of a career in the trades is not only a benefit to the students, but educators and parents as well.

"We’re excited to continue to expand this program into more communities and encourage local companies to participate."

For 2021, KE is working with the following school districts: Goodhue, Red Wing, Lake City, Cannon Falls, Zumbrota, Pine Island and Kenyon/Wanamingo.

There are hopes for future expansion but for the inaugural year, OTA schools receive tool kits for all graduating seniors, a field trip to a local KE solar site for eighth-graders, the book “Build It” and STEM activity bin for kindergartners and OSHA-10 certification sponsorships for high school students interested in the trades. 

Von Knobelsdorff spoke to the graduating class at Goodhue High School, where he is a 2004 graduate and reflected on the path in his career that led to where he is today.

“Never would I have thought I would be where I am today. As I grew up, I saw a career as an electrician as a great career, but someone once told me that I would not be successful in life if I did not go to a four-year college, well that just isn’t true.

"Now, I own a successful company that employs 200-plus. The country needs skilled tradespeople, and you can make a really good living if you are willing to work hard.”

Michael Wendland, Red Wing high school’s Flight Path Coordinator, spoke to the senior class’ reaction to receiving their own toolkits.

“Not only were the seniors excited to get something, but something that was meaningful and not just an extra water bottle or tote bag but rather something that builds their independence," Wendland said.

In 2021 the construction industry would need 430,000 craft professionals to meet the current demands – a career path that is struggling to attract the younger demographic.

OTA aims to change those statistics and urges companies to join its cause. Adam Hanson, Chapter President of Associated Builders and Contractors of MN/ND, encourages KE to continue this brand-new program.

“This is an impressive and innovative program and I’m glad it is taking off. When ABC members like Knobelsdorff invest and promote construction careers, they will be the first to see the benefits of that," Hanson said.

KE is proud to be contributing to the future of the trades and is committed to doing more in the coming year. For more information on OTA or how to get involved, contact Megan Ramaker at

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