Local plumbing and heating company offers valuable scholarships

Jennifer Wirth | Lehi Free Press

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High school student interest in skilled trades lacking

For the past two years, a successful Lehi business, Schoonover Plumbing and Heating, has offered an apprentice scholarship to high school students. The Schoonover Plumbing and Heating Apprentice Scholarship includes four full years of paid schooling, a stipend to pay for tools, and includes full time employment during the process to students graduating from any high school in the Alpine School District. So far, Schoonover has had no students interested in the scholarship.

Recipients of this scholarship will graduate from Mountainland Applied Technical College (MTECH) with an estimated $70,000 per year income right out of school with no student debt. In an industry that’s hurting for workers, the opportunities can only grow. However, with little to no interest in the scholarship, the successful Lehi company is hoping to get the word out.

Last year was the first time the scholarship was offered. According to Dan Burke, manager of Schoonover Plumbing and Heating, “We only had one person interested in the scholarship, and he already worked for us. We really feel that this is a great opportunity and hope to get more people interested in it.”

As to the reasons for the lack of interest, Burke said, “It’s probably no one thing. There’s been a decline in the skilled trades for years. Most new people that we get tend to come from other fields first after seeing how much opportunity there is. If we can get parents and school counselors to see the benefits of this type of work, I think that would help a lot.”

Interest in careers in the labor trades has been down for decades. Dave Hill, Director of the Utah Plumbing and Heating Contractors Association said there is a nationwide shortage of people working in the industry. “While there’s been a slight pick-up in the number of people working in the trades, it’s not enough. We need more young people to fill the gap after the majority of workers retire. There’s good money and skills in trades,” said Hill.

The U.P.H.C.A. also has scholarships available with no applicants. The statewide organization is spreading the word about the benefits of these careers by attending schools’ career days, as well as presenting at a recent conference for school counselors. Hill said, “Parents and counselors tend to be focused on a university education as the only way to a viable career. We are hoping to change that focus.” Both Hill and Burke hope parents and educators will help students see the value and seek opportunities in the trades.

Those interested in the scholarship are encouraged to contact Dan Burke at dan@schoonover-plumbing.com

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