Sole Education Fall 2019: A Word to the Wise

A Word to the Wise

This week, we asked the students to think back and give some advice that they wished they would have listened to when they first started their journey. Hindsight is always 20/20, so let’s see what they had to say:

Michael: Follow Your Dreams

Here’s the thing, I LOVE the trades. The idea of solving problems while working “hands-on” with tools that energize me… I often ask myself, “if I could turn back time and start over, what would I have done differently?”Sole Education Fall 2019: Michael

Easy. I would have entered the trades MUCH earlier in my life. I have vivid memories of being seventeen years old and proud of myself for landing a meeting with one of the leading “high- end” General Contractors in my home town.

We met at the local diner over coffee (that was a big deal at seventeen). By the end of the meeting, I had landed a new job. I planned to graduate high school and begin my working life in the trades.

My parents (whom I love dearly) had another idea- off to college. Although I do not regret attending college and praise my parents for providing me with the opportunity to advance my education, I wish I chose to use the knowledge I gained during college within my area of passion much sooner in life.

Throughout my adult life, I have filled that void with avid, advanced DIY Sole Education Fall 2019: Michaelprojects, often with my Dad by my side. Today, I am living my dream!

 One footnote: my son Ben is eighteen and chose to attend college. As part of our family’s decision-making process on where he should continue his education, we discussed plumbing, carpentry, electrical, and mechanical trades along with the traditional four-year universities before he made his choice.

Follow your passion…follow your dreams…that was our advice.

Logan: Consider Taking College Courses In High School

Honestly, I wouldn’t change my major at all. After I graduate from college, I would have two major. My carpentry diploma and my welding degree. If I had a choice when I was in high school, I would take college classes to get my degree quicker. I was mostly working through high school. I wanted to make some money, and I did. I worked part-time at a lumber yard. I bought my first car on my own. I am twenty-one years old and ready to be done with school. I

 am prepared to go back to work. 

Sole Education Fall 2019: Logan

This summer, I’ll be doing my internship. I plan on working at PPI in Lenox, IA. They said they would start me off at $17.00 an hour. I am excited to be working there. I applied there eight times and never heard from them. The other day I walked in and told them that I am taking welding at SWCC. They said we would hire you when you’re done with school. I’ll be working 10 hours every day. I don’t regret anything or would not change anything.

Riley: Take that Electrical Class

In my last entry, I explained that I knew absolutely nothing about the HVAC industry before entering it, and that was true! Things I wish I knew about my new career field before entering it would have been how much I’ve had to learn in the classroom and the area to fully understand how to do my job safely and efficiently. I also wish I would have known how much social skills it requires to be in the residential market for HVAC.

If I could go back in time to give my younger self some advice and tips about things I wish I would have done before entering this program, it would be to take that electrical class that they offered in highschool. I honestly didn’t know I would work around so much electrical equipment, which is crazy that I thought that, but it has been something I have had to learn a lot of. I also wish I would have paid more attention in my math classes in high school because I have had some tough math and physics classes while in my program.  

While these specific scenarios may not apply to you, there is always something to consider from another person’s perspective. Take these insights and apply them to your own career goals, and learn from others!

Follow along with our students’ progress here.
Learn more about the Generation T movement here.


Sole Education Fall 2019: Meet the Students

Sole Education Fall 2019: Meet the Students

We are excited to bring Sole Education back for a second semester! This time, we decided to bring on three new students, with three different skilled trades paths. Let’s jump in and meet them!

Meet Michael:

My name is Michael. I am fifty-three years old and have worked in professional sales for over twenty-five years. I live in Westerly, RI, and have been married to my wife, Tonya, for twenty-seven years. We have one child, Benjamin. He is a freshman at Providence College.

I LOVE the trades! Since the age of six, I had a keen interest in tools and trades. Sole Education Participant, Michael BilottiMy Dad, Pat (retired), was a hard-working man. Although he did not work in the trades himself, he was a very skilled handyman. As I grew up, he taught me much of what I know today and fostered my love for working with tools and using my hands to solve problems. To this day, he is my role model.

Throughout middle and high school, I elected to take Shop classes and completed all of my college prep requirements ahead of schedule so that I could participate in our Cooperative Education program. That program allowed me to leave school early and work in the trades.

After high school, I became the first person in my family to attend college. Since graduation, and I have lived a very productive and secure life. Yet, I always felt I ignored my true passion and strong desire to work in the trades.

At age 53, I have embarked on the next phase of my life. I work for A&L Mechanical as an Apprentice Plumber and am enrolled in Plumbing school with the Rhode Island Association of Plumbing, Heating & Cooling Contractors. I LOVE it! Not only am I learning something new every day, it feels great to solve problems and help people when they need it the most.

Good days, bad days, all days bring a smile to my face!

Meet Riley:

My name is Riley Schwab, I am 19, and I was born and raised in a small southern Iowa town called Lamoni. My family owns a cattle ranch that I have worked on my entire life.

I wasn’t planning on continuing my education after high school but decided Riley Schwabthat it would be a smart idea to have a backup plan in case something happens with our ranch.

I am in my second year in the Heating, Air conditioning, and Refrigeration program at Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny, Iowa.  Before coming to DMACC, I had no idea how an HVAC system even operated, but through my training and a summer internship, I have gained so much knowledge.

This past summer, I worked for Schaal Heating and Cooling for my internship hours and was able to understand the industry and how it works. I’m enjoying my time at DMACC so far, and I am happy I decided to attend this college!

Meet Logan:

My name is Logan Lawson. I was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and grew up in Clearfield, IA. Clearfield is a tiny town, and half of my family lives there. I am currently going to Southwestern Community College in Creston, IA, for welding, and this my first year. I never welded before in my life. Even though we had a welding shop in my high school, I never did it.

All throughout high school, I took carpentry classes. My dad is a carpenter, and Sole Education: Logan LawsonI was good at it too. When I graduated from high school, I went to Denison Job Corps for carpentry. I was there for a year and got my diploma. I was so happy that I got it. When I got home, I started working for a carpenter. I was doing good, but I wasn’t making enough to pay my bills. They would cut my hours, and I had enough. I decided to look for a different carpentry job, but couldn’t find any. My mother told me that Dalton AG, Inc. was hiring,  so  I applied and got a full-time job working in fabrication and assembly, and have worked with them for the last year.

We have welders there as well, I was never interested in welding, but my boss told me to try it out, and I liked it. It wasn’t long after that I told my boss that I am going back to school to get my welding degree.

I have three jobs now. I still work at Dalton’s part-time in the mornings from 6 am -10 am, and my second job is in the evening from 4 pm -8 pm at Wellman’s. Both are factory jobs, but it pays the bills. On the weekends, I work with my dad doing side jobs. The reason why I work three jobs is to help my mother and brother. They enjoy it and are glad that I can help out.

When I get my degree, I plan on finding a job around Maryville, Missouri, as a welder.


Follow along with our students’ progress here.
Learn more about the Generation T movement here.