• James Posey

Benefits of Partnering with Local Trade Schools

Updated: Jan 25

Fifteen years ago, I arrived to my first day of work at United Mechanical. I was hired to take out the trash and sweep the floors. An entry level position, but a valuable position. I was Just 20 years old at the time and most of my friends had moved away to attend college. I’ll share more about their journeys a little bit later.

Si Vaughn
Si Vaughn

On my first day, I was greeted by the man who hired me, his name was Si Vaughn. Si had a shaved head, was well over 6ft tall, and had a goatee. He had the look of an intimidating Construction Manager. It didn’t take me long to realize that this guy meant business!

However, Si’s look was deceiving. He was a Department Manager, but Si was also a teacher. He spent a lot of time teaching me (and others) technical knowledge and how parts and pieces went together. He took me to visit job sites to understand HVAC systems, and even stayed late afterwork to teach me how to weld, how to use a torch, and how to repair equipment. I would work in the field on the weekends. It was fun. I enjoyed it and it never seemed to get boring. I felt a sense of pride. Driving down the road and passing a building that I helped build…it was a great feeling.

I didn’t know much about HVAC at the time, so I would ask a lot of questions. I worked in the warehouse, so I had an opportunity to ask Si and other coworkers about materials that were coming in on trucks and being delivered to job sites. They enjoyed sharing their knowledge with me. It was a unique learning environment because I was able to have a better understanding of how everything worked that we used in the field.

Early on, I often thought to myself: “Why would Si and others spend so much time with a guy like me?”15 years later, I now understand. They were cultivating UMI’s future. They understood that a company needs leadership and its leaders should be recruiting and training new employees.

Training a new employee or student doesn’t show up on final job reports. It is a long-term investment. An investment that still benefits a lot of us in the trades. We all have an opportunity to make an impact on someone.

Thankfully in Southwest Florida, we’ve seen an increase in trade programs at high schools and vocational schools. Wise parents and students are eyeing the costs of college vs employer paid trade programs. The schools are seeing there’s a job demand in the trades and ultimately want their students to be gainfully employed after they graduate. And most importantly, a lot of students enjoy it! You can see the energy in the students and their excitement to work with their hands.

United Mechanical has had the opportunity to meet some of these students through our partnership with South Fort Myers High School and other vocational and apprenticeship programs that help students on their career paths. We offer training and resources to them at no cost and in return we get an opportunity to meet and recruit future employees. It's a win-win situation for the student and the employer.

We hope to partner with more of these programs to be part of the student’s development and their careers being a success. Schools like South Fort Myers High School are being recognized as one of the leaders of these programs and we would like to be the forefront of their program’s success.

As for my friends who moved off to college? Many have returned home. Some of them had jobs, some of them didn’t. Some of them were asking if we were hiring. The worst part is that many of them have a mountain of student loans to pay off. I think it’s sad that many of them spent a small fortune only to return home and have a hard time finding a job.

But it doesn’t have to be that way for job seekers in Southwest Florida. If you’re reading this and thinking of beginning a career in HVAC, electrical, welding, plumbing, or any other trade, consider one of these schools and be sure to check with local companies like us who offer employer-paid trade programs.

I think we would all agree that recruiting is important, but teaching someone something new is just as valuable. It leaves a lasting memory and something they can to pass on to others. At United Mechanical, we have a great group of teachers from all different backgrounds. Let’s invest in each other and the future employees that walk through our door.

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