Jason Finch

Skilled tradespeople like Jason Finch make a difference in the lives of students.

While college can be a good option for launching a career, it's not the only
game in town.

Many high school graduates are discovering the benefits of choosing
skilled trades.

Jason Finch, a business agent with West Michigan Plumbers, Fitters and
Service Trades Local Union No. 174, enjoys sharing his passion at various
college and career fairs.

In this photo, he is at the regional Career Fair held last month at Shelby
High School.

"We represent one of the best kept secrets around," Jason said. "People
use all kinds of plumbing every day, but most don't even know our
organization exists."

Jason, an experienced 27-year licensed plumber, also has three
certifications in welding.

"I tell students that this is not just a fulfilling job, it's an excellent career,"
Jason said. "I'm glad we have a great relationship with the ESD's CTE

The union offers a five-year apprenticeship program. Currently there are
150 apprentices and 1,050 journeymen and women.

Students start out at 50 percent of a journeyman's wage with 5 percent
increases the second and third years, 10 percent hikes the fourth and fifth
years and a 20 percent increase when they obtain journeyman status.

There's also a defined benefits pension plan. The program includes
classroom instruction and on the job training.

"We spend more money on training than anyone else does besides the
military," Jason noted.

One huge benefit for students is that there is never a huge college loan to
pay off.

"We tell students they are going to end up making money, not owing
money," Jason said. "Their ears perk up upon hearing this news, that's for
sure. It's a difference-maker."

Local Union 174 covers 12 1/2 counties, from Grand Rapids to the South,
Ionia to the East, Arcadia to the North and Lake Michigan to the West. 

It's one of 11 different plumbing and pipefitters unions in Michigan and
Canada, all part of the United Association.