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High school program promotes trade careers with Richard Petty and Billy Lane

Students from Minneapolis Public Schools and Lakeville North High School have revealed rat rod karts they built in class as part of a new, year-long Northern Tool + Equipment program. The karts are powered by 740cc NorthStar EFI engines and were revealed in front of thousands of car enthusiasts at the Minnesota Street Rod Association’s “Back to the 50s” event. 

NASCAR legend Richard Petty, the team at Petty’s Garage, and Choppers Inc. founder Billy Lane assisted the students.

NASCAR legend Richard Petty (right) and Choppers Inc. founder Billy Lane (left) helped students from Minneapolis Public Schools and Lakeville North High School build rat rod karts which were revealed at the Minnesota Street Rod Association’s “Back to the 50s” event. Photo courtesy of Northern Tool + Equipment

“It’s a big confidence builder for them,” Lane said. “They started with nothing but an engine and took on a monumental challenge, not only in skill but in planning and teamwork and resource management. They were diving into a lot and needed a lot of skills all at once at a very young age, and managed it really well. They’ve really persevered with this.”

“Watching the kids work on these karts with their own two hands is what this build-off is all about,” Petty said. “This isn’t about winning or losing. It’s about those students learning valuable hands-on skills that could help them get a job in the trades one day.” 

Students from Minnesota Public Schools present their rat rod with Richard Petty and Billy Lane.

The Rat Rod Kart Build-Off is part of Northern Tool + Equipment’s Tools for the Trades program. The program is designed to fuel a growing interest in the trades with high school students by donating tools and equipment to career and technical education programs. The donations give instructors professional-grade tools and equipment to properly teach the trades and expose students to trade career-like experiences. 

“We know how valuable trade careers are to our communities, which is one reason why we started Tools for the Trades,” said Suresh Krishna, CEO of Northern Tool + Equipment. “Most of the students involved with this build-off will pursue trade careers after high school. We’re thrilled we could play a part in fueling that fire.”

Billy Lane agrees, acknowledging that participating in this program points students toward a trade career path they may not have otherwise chosen. “We have to start funneling people in the direction of the trades, otherwise we are going to have nobody,” he says.

Students from Lakeville High School present their rat rod in front of thousands of car enthusiasts.

“I love what I do, and I’ve lived a really blessed life doing it,” he continues. “And I want to see that continue after I’m either too old to work or gone, just like I picked up where my predecessors left off… Richard [Petty] has also done that with what he’s done in NASCAR, and I think these students will do that too… It feels great to give back because people laid a path for me, and to be able to give back and do that for someone else is meaningful.”

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