For five generations, South St. Paul Steel Supply Company has been providing steel, aluminum and galvanized products to local and national customers. For almost as long, they’ve been helping out local colleges with products, recycling and expertise.
David Berg, the company’s president, remembers dropping metal product donations to local colleges as early as the ’60s, when he was just a teenager. This past spring, MCTC joined that group of colleges through a new partnership.
South St. Paul Steel Supply provides a range of services to the College including free, custom-built containers that academic departments and maintenance staff can use to recycle metal products. Under the enthusiastic direction of MCTC Welding and Metal Fabrication instructor Todd Bridigum, students get hands-on learning about hot topics in the industry, including finding more environmentally friendly ways to work and more Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED) certification programs. In addition, Berg’s company contributes steel products to statewide welding competitions in which MCTC students participate.
But Berg is quick to point out that his role goes beyond just handing out supplies. “We don’t just write a check or simply provide materials,” he says. “If we’re invited—to the skills competition for welding students, for example—we come and help support activities. We offer as much education to instructors as they’re comfortable taking.”
In addition, Berg sits on the school’s Welding Advisory Committee—one of several advisory committees in which he participates. “It helps us provide, from a private-sector viewpoint, what the industry is looking for from students taking [welding] courses,” he says. “We can help implement different kinds of ideas and procedures.” He’ll even give pointers on the interviewing process for students who are looking for jobs in the field. In turn, Berg knows that he’ll likely have a ready supply of top-tier talent available as his company grows and hires more employees.
Berg suspects he might be the only metal supplier in the state who can bandy about educational jargon like “full-year equivalent” (FYE) or chat with the chancellor of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU). But for him, providing assistance in all the ways he can is part of his larger role as being a positive part of the community. “Anybody can come in and pick up [a college’s] scrap or provide steel product for classroom instruction,” he says. “But for us, being a bigger part of that process, and giving back to the community, is what it’s all about.”