With Wall of Honor, Red Wing Shoes Aims to Inspire Interest in Trades

March 12, 2018 07:05 PM

A Minnesota company with a long tradition of supplying shoes to trade workers is now honoring those workers.

Red Wing Shoes is also trying to drive interest in the jobs those honorees made careers out of.


Chris Csoka worked cleanup at the World Trade Center towers after Sept. 11. Working atop massive piles of burning debris, he wore through his work-issued boots in no time.

"You'd burn up a pair of boots – in four days they were gone, gone," Csoka recalls.

A friend recommended he buy Red Wing Boots, and he says that recommendation saved his life.

Extended Interview: Chris Csoka on How Boots Saved His Life

During an overnight shift, Csoka stepped off a curb after grabbing some lunch to head back to the destruction when he heard a hissing sound.

"I happen to look down where I was standing, and the next thing I know I see a flash of light and I'm launched in the air," Csoka said.

A transformer had blown, started on fire and then exploded, launching Csoka into the air.

But the boots Csoka was wearing were grounded.

"I've been so blessed in my life, and I look at my wife and kids and I realize none of this exists if that goes a different way that night," he said.

His worn out work boots now grace the new wall of honor at Red Wing Shoes, along with those of dozens of others from around the country who've had great trade careers.

But the industry is in desperate need of help.

"The Manufacturing Institute of America says there are actually 3.5 million jobs right now, today, that are going unfulfilled," said Dave Schneider, Red Wing's chief marketing officer.

Last fall the company brought a crew of tradesmen into Red Wing High School to talk about skilled trade jobs. And students had a lot of questions.

RELATED: On the Road: Red Wing Shoes

"'How did you do it? Where did you do it? How did you get that apprenticeship? Is it a lucrative career? Is it not? Am I going to do well by this, and is it right for me?'"Schneider said. "It became a full dialogue and discourse around the trades and the potentials and opportunities."

It went over so well that the company now hopes to expand to more high schools.

"We think this is a program that can span out and reach lots of different people across America," Schneider said.

"All those guys up on that wall, their stories and their passion, it's because they love what they do," Csoka said. "It's been the best career of my life."


Jessica Miles

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