In the Fall of 2016, Give Something Back partnered with Williamson College of the Trades. Located outside of Philadelphia, Williamson is Give Back’s trade school partner. It is an all-male school where students learn skills like carpentry, horticulture and masonry in three years. They are high achievers with financial need.

I hadn’t considered partnering with a trade school until I was introduced to Williamson and learned this astonishing fact from the US Department of Labor: More than five million skilled labor positions are going unfilled in the nation — even as so many Americans continue to be out of work. I write about this issue in my book, Working Class to College.

As Williamson has demonstrated, students don’t necessarily need to choose between standard academic course work or trade school vocations. They learn both.

Students at Williamson receive free tuition, in addition to room and board, which means they graduate with little or no debt. They are required to wear jackets and ties to class (unless they are in shop), and follow a strict Code of Conduct promoting the core values of faith, integrity, diligence, excellence and service. The school enforces a zero-tolerance policy for illicit alcohol or drug use.

These students earn associate’s degrees, and many of its graduates ultimately earn four-year college degrees. Williamson alumni have become success stories. Some have even become CEOs of large companies.

If you ever go to one of Williamson’s Career Fairs as I have, you’ll learn the high demand for these students. At Williamson’s most recent Career Fair, 114 employers packed the school’s gymnasium for a chance to recruit Williamson’s seniors. The typical Williamson grad receive not just one job offer – they receive several offers. Another fair is planned for February.

“We would hire them all if we could,” said Allison Lang of Timet, a manufacturer of titanium products, who has been coming to the career fair for the past three years. “We need to hire people with a skill set so they can learn from us. These students are very easy to train.”

And they have highly admirable character.

“These young men are smart, disciplined, enthusiastic and have integrity. All the values our company embodies,” said Mike Carper, vice president at Whiting-Turner, a century-old contracting company that has been recruiting Williamson graduates since 1998.

One of these grads, Dan Dickenson, who credits Williamson for not just teaching him the construction trade but also how to succeed in life, said he chose to join Whiting-Turner after considering a total of five job offers presented to him following graduation last spring.

Five job offers.

With more skilled laborers reaching retirement age, and more of these positions requiring advanced technical training and critical thinking skills, the need for smart tradesmen will only continue to grow. As a partner of Williamson College of the Trades, Give Back is happy to help support these talented scholars in the trades.