Erich Hanson

Erick Hanson, an Academic Excellence award winner for the Construction Sciences & Building Technology department at the Dunwoody College of Technology, served in the United States Coast Guard for almost 10 years after graduating from Monticello High School. He is back living in Monticello and taking part in a pipefitter’s apprentice program after graduating from the college this Spring.


Erick Hanson of Monticello traveled a long way to come home.

But 12 years after graduating from Monticello High School and 10 years in the United States Coast Guard, Hanson is back home in Monticello and training to work in the HVAC industry as a pipefitter.

Hanson enrolled at the Dunwoody College of Technology after completing his 10 years with the Coast Guard and graduated this Spring as the Minneapolis-based college’s Academic Excellence award winner in the Construction Sciences & Building Technology department. He is now realizing his dream of becoming a pipefitter after being accepted into the apprentice program of the Minneapolis Pipefitters Local Union #559.

“I traveled around the world through the Coast Guard and lived in Wisconsin on Lake Michigan, in Oregon and Alaska,” Hanson said.

He extended his contract with the Coast Guard twice and worked while his wife finished her schooling.

When Hanson’s wife completed his schooling it was time for the Hansons to realize one of their family goals: to return to Minnesota so the Hanson’s three boys could be closer to family.

“When I got out of the Coast Guard in the summer of 2018 we moved back to Minnesota and I started at Dunwoody in the Fall,” Hanson recalled.

 When planning his future, Erick Hanson knew three things.

“I didn’t want to go to a four-year school. I didn’t want a Bachelor’s degree. I didn’t want to work in an office,” he said.

In looking at career trades, Hanson was inspired by his wife’s father.

“My father-in-law is a pipe-fitter,” he said.

Being a pipe-fitter would allow Hanson diversity in choosing a career.

“You can do a lot of things with one degree, like being in the Coat Guard,” Hanson said.

Hanson was drawn to the Coast Guard because it is a unique branch of the United States Armed Services and had a life-saving and law enforcement aspect to its service.

The Coast Guard was small and one didn’t get lost being nothing but a number

Hanson saw the same attribute in continuing his education at Dunwoody. 

The school is smaller and would allow him to successfully complete his next mission- getting his college degree.

Hanson started working last summer in the HVAC industry in the summer of 2019, a year into his schooling.

In the Fall of 2019 he was accepted into the Minneapolis Pipefitters Local Union’s apprenticeship program.

He attends classes one day a week at the pipefitter union’s training center in Brooklyn Park and spends four days a week in on-the-job training.

It’s a five-year program, Hanson said.

“At the end of the day, I want to become a journeyman and work by myself as a master tradesman,” he said.

“Then I can work until I retire,” Hanson said.

Hanson says he doesn’t know if it was by design or accident that he and the Dunwoody College of Technology found each other.

He does know that he’s thankful that the connection was made.

But his success at the college and the earning of its Academic Excellence award did not come easy.

“You have to be 100 percent committed to be successful,” Hanson said.

Hanson says to be successful one has to show up and put in the work and ask a lot of questions.

“You also need a good work ethic, like I learned from the Coast Guard,” Hanson said.

“If you do that, the rest is easy,” he said.

Reach Jeff Hage at


Jeff Hage is the managing editor of the Monticello Times. He majored in journalism at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire.

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