Local Family Creates Scholarship to Directly Tackle Skilled Trades Gap

“The idea caught fire – actually, it caught passion.” John Barron, owner of Barron Heating

It is no secret that there is a skilled trades gap that is broadening in the US as the aging work force moves onto retirement and takes their hard-won expertise with them, with nobody to take their place. In a recent report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, we can clearly see 7.6 million open jobs, a huge number of which fall within the umbrella of skilled trades and labor.

“Go to college and get a master’s degree” has been drummed into the heads of millennials and Generation Z-ers since the 1980s, under the premise that you can out-earn your peers so long as you have a master’s degree. Parents, wanting the best for their children, perpetuate the expectation that in order to earn as much as you can, you start your working career with a college career.

Even Congress is tackling the issue, with a recently introduced bill H.B. 3497 aimed at  expanding federal educational grant eligibility to technical school training, meant to entice students to pursue other education and buck the trend of the ‘four year culture.’

Imaging Issues and Labor

At some point, hard work caught the connotation of ‘dirty work.’ Jobs sit empty as high schoolers transition to college and away from career paths that will lead them towards hard hats and HVAC installations.

Ryan Dickey of Everett, who has been in the trades since graduating high school, has a very direct way of tackling the topic of branding outside of the industry: “Schools constantly push the narrative that if you don’t go to school and get your four year degree, then you’re going to amount to nothing.

[Trades] are being referenced like you’re digging a ditch.” Dickey, a commercial construction foreman, belongs to the Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters, Local 30 and is involved with recruitment for the construction firm he’s employed at.

Making a Difference

One local company, Barron Heating & Air Conditioning, is doing their part to obviate the gap looming here in our own backyard. A grass roots company from the area, they are tackling the stigmatization of trade work and doing their part to decrease barriers for local families to access education.

They created two $5,000 annual scholarships, the Dan L. Barron Trades Scholarship, which you can apply for here. One is for any community member to access and the other is available to a current Barron employee or family member, of which there are 147.

The scholarships are the product of an immense passion for community; it is the distilled promise of making a genuine difference and all of the visceral allure that holds. This is the first year that it’s being offered and the Barrons are thrilled to share all about it.

“There is no obligation to future employment with Barron Heating to receive these scholarships — it is simply our way of encouraging and building up the ever important and rewarding trades field,” said John Barron, owner of Barron Heating.

The scholarships are meant to help people obtain family-wage jobs in the building trades without incurring the heavy debt associated with education, a barrier for many as the cost of living and education continue to climb faster than wages. “This is all about giving back to our community, through our community.”

While the implementation of it is the work of many, the idea itself came from Brad Barron, the Operations Manager and son to John. Brad joined the company three years ago and through that process developed a deeper understanding of why scholarships just like these are needed inside of the community. With the help of their team, the idea came to fruition.

The namesake of the scholarships is the founder and patriarch of Barron itself, Dan L. Barron, who created the company nearly fifty years ago. Dan began as a sheet metal apprentice in 1950, detoured from that path to become an aircraft mechanic for the Marine Corps, and eventually opened the doors to Barron’s Heating and Air Conditioning in 1972.

Dan passed away December 5, 2018. When Brad approached the company with the idea of honoring his grandfather through naming the scholarship after him, there was no question that was the way to go. “How could I not think that is a wonderful idea?” shares John.

From seed to harvest, the scholarships are the embodiment of communal restorative practices, facilitated through meticulous intention, careful research and purity of intent. The Dan L. Barron Trades Scholarship is now a crowning jewel for the Barrons, representative of the whole heart of a whole family.

To apply for the scholarship, head over to https://www.barronheating.com/scholarship/ and complete the online forms.

A little more about the company: “Barron Heating is one of Northwest Washington’s largest team of home performance experts with locations in Ferndale, Burlington and Marysville. Approximately 150 employees serve customers in Whatcom, Skagit, Island, San Juan and Snohomish counties.

Committed to “improving lives” through its Air Solutions Team and Certified Home Performance Experts, they provide a wide range of heating, cooling, solar, electrical, plumbing and indoor air-quality products and services, as well as a large selection of stoves, fireplaces and hot tubs.”