Workforce Spotlight

Their Time to Shine: The mikeroweWORKS Foundation’s Work Ethic Scholarship Recipients Head into a Bright Future With the Support of PA Chamber

Fall 2017 Catalyst

November 21, 2017

PA Chamber Foundation mikeroweFoundationLast year, the PA Chamber Educational Foundation commissioned a study about the struggles facing Pennsylvania employers in terms of the quality of their workforce and the job candidates pool. The results showed what we’d long heard anecdotally — business owners in a position to hire were having a difficult time finding qualified job candidates with the skills necessary to fill these roles. We knew that closing this jobs skills gap wasn’t a problem that the business community could handle singularly, and that bringing attention to it meant doing something big. In this case, ‘big’ meant hosting a Workforce Summit last year that featured Executive Producer and Show Host Mike Rowe, best known as “the dirtiest man on TV” from the hit TV series Dirty Jobs, as the keynote speaker.


As CEO of the mikeroweWORKS Foundation, Rowe kicked off his ‘Profoundly Disconnected’ campaign back in 2008 to dispel the myth that a four year college degree is the only path to achieve success. The mikeroweWORKS Foundation has awarded, or helped facilitate the awarding of, more than $5 million in education dollars to students attending trade schools across the country. At our spring 2016 Workforce Summit, Rowe stressed to a rapt audience of students, parents, educators and business leaders that success isn’t just limited to those with a college education. In fact, if you’ve got the combination of a strong work ethic, and an eagerness to learn the skills necessary to land a good paying job, you too can head down the path to a successful — and fulfilling — career.


work ethic scholarshipThe summit was the kickoff to our “Start the Conversation HERE” initiative, which became a cornerstone of the PA Chamber’s mission as we embarked on our second century of operation. The summit also marked the beginning of a unique relationship with the mikeroweWORKS Foundation. The PA Chamber worked with the Commonwealth’s business community to help support the mikeroweWORKS Foundation’s Work Ethic Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships to people pursuing a career in the skilled trades. Our goal was to help Pennsylvania students attend Pennsylvania trade schools.  The PA Chamber Education Foundation donated approximately $77,000 towards the 2017 Work Ethic Scholarship Program; and by the time the program closed, the mikeroweWORKS Foundation awarded more than $135,000 to 47 deserving Pennsylvania recipients who expressed a real desire to learn a trade and didn’t hesitate to sign the mikeroweWORKS Foundation’s S.W.E.A.T. (“Skills and Work Ethic Aren’t Taboo”) Pledge — basically saying they’ll commit to work hard and smart.


Catalyst is proud to feature just a handful of the students who received a scholarship this year. Going forward, our plan is to continue to highlight these students, keep up the dynamic, one-of-a-kind relationship we have with the mikeroweWORKS Foundation and grow the program to new heights. Together, we are confident that we can expand the reach of this scholarship initiative and help more students, as we continue to engage communities across the Commonwealth about the jobs skills gap and inform them of the boundless opportunities that exist in the skilled trades.



Cole Smith

Age: 20

School: Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology

Field of Study: Welding Technology


Cole SmithCole Smith first heard of the Work Ethic Scholarship from his Dad, who was browsing online and came across it. “I decided to apply for it because I really liked that it was based on having a strong work ethic — which is something I take pride in myself for having,” he said. Cole had heard about welding from a friend, who — while discussing the lack of skilled labor in the state — informed him of the field and its absence of young workers. “After doing some research, I learned that my local community college offered welding classes, so I tried it out for a semester and loved it,” he added. After a year taking those classes, and spending six months doing hands-on training, Cole chose Thaddeus Stevens — an accredited two-year technical college — to hone his craft. Upon graduation, Cole hopes to jump head first into the field. “I am very much looking forward to my future in welding, whether it’s working on the pipeline, at a shipyard, or opening my own shop,” he said.




Terry Seaman III

Age: 18

School: WyoTech

Field of Study: Diesel Technology

Terry Seaman IIITerry also heard of the Work Ethic Scholarship from a close source — his Mom. “She is a fan of Mike Rowe and listens to his podcast The Way I Heard It,” he says. The scholarship program ended up being just the right fit for Terry — he’d wanted to attend a trade school post-graduation (not a four year university) and didn’t want to accrue much debt. “I agree with every part of the S.W.E.A.T. Pledge, but the part that resonates most with me is that I don't believe in going into debt to live a life style I can't afford,” he said. Now, Terry is enrolled at Indiana County-based WyoTech and wants to eventually get a job working on the trucks he’s been interested in for as long as he can remember. “I’ve always thought that diesel engines were cool, but never knew much about them so I'm very excited to learn all about them and be able to repair them,” Terry added. 




Katherine (KC) Muhlenkamp

Age: 18

School: Triangle Tech

Field of Study:  Maintenance Electricity


Katherine MuhlenkampKatherine comes from a family who believes in the value of hard work, and the value of saving for the future — hence her reason for applying for the Work Ethic Scholarship. She admits that when thinking of her plans post high school, she wasn’t really all that interested in attending a four year college but knew one thing — she wanted to parlay the science and math she  learned in the classroom into a future career. “Right now, my plan is to work as a residential electrician,” she said, adding that she finds the concept very interesting and that she’s eager to get started. As a testament to the strength of her hard work ethic, the provision of S.W.E.A.T. Pledge that stood out to Katherine the most was that while some might take the easy route, her choice is to work. “I’ve seen the effects of laziness and how hard it is to go from being lazy to working hard. It’s a downward spiral that just leads to unhappiness,” she said. “I don’t ever want that to happen to me, so I choose to work hard every day and find happiness in my job.”



Josiah Bardo

Age: 22

School: Triangle Tech

Field of Study:  Welding


Josiah BardoIt was during a meeting with a financial aid advisor to determine ways to reduce his school debt that Josiah Bardo first heard of the Work Ethic Scholarship. The long-time fan of Mike Rowe had an amazing first experience in welding, during a summer job where his friend (a welder) would answer his questions and show him the tricks of the trade. “I spent a great amount of time in his shop,” Josiah said. “I was always interested in the sights, sounds and smell of welds. He was the reason why I had decided to select welding as my area of study. I also know that there are countless job opportunities for those who have been certified in welding! Because of that, I knew without a doubt that I would not regret the decision of choosing this area of study. The whole process of going to school again excites me, but if I had to choose one thing that excites me the most out of the whole deal, I would have to say it’s the passion. I have already found out that I enjoy welding. Is it not exciting to know that you can be paid to do something that you enjoy? It just seems too good to be true!” At the moment, Josiah aims to become a pipeline welder but is more than willing to work his way up. In fact, he says that the part of the S.W.E.A.T. pledge that resonates the most is the statement that there is no such thing as a bad job – that all jobs are opportunities. “I know that some jobs can be rough,” Josiah states. “But there is absolutely no reason that I should be miserable throughout my job. I say that if I can always keep a good attitude through a job and try to make the best of it, I will eventually be blessed at some point! It’s so very easy to let others get you down, but it’s also just as easy to do the opposite. I will always believe that it is entirely up to me to make the best of my job.”



Hanna Gibson

Age: 18

School: Pennsylvania College of Technology

Field of Study:  Residential Construction Management


Hanna GibsonHanna Gibson understands that an eagerness to learn all aspects of a trade can get you far in life. “I started out wanting to be an architect, but my Dad and Uncle told me that I needed to learn from the bottom up,” she explained. “So, I signed up for a carpentry building construction class at my career center, and while I was there I got to be a part of a Residential Construction Management Competition team, which gave me an opportunity to see all aspects of the building projects and I found I enjoyed the management portion the most.” Armed with this knowledge, Hanna is attending PennTech to focus on a job in the construction management industry. Her willingness to show up early, stay late and volunteer for whatever the team might need made her a perfect choice as a recipient of a Work Ethic Scholarship. “Coming from a blue collar family, I understand the importance of showing up early and staying until the job is done,” she said. “I also understand that sometimes, putting yourself out there to do the job nobody wants will get your further than doing the ones everyone wants to do.”