Northern students receive Mike Rowe Foundation scholarships
October 23, 2018
A pair of Montana State University-Northern students were awarded national-level scholarships from a high-profile source that will help them build toward future careers within the trades.
The Mike Rowe Foundation was founded by Mike Rowe, who is best known for his show "Dirty Jobs." The foundation's goal is to help students who are pursuing degrees in the trades industry and who feel like a traditional four-year degree is not for them.
Kegan Strop, a freshman working on his plumbing degree, and Wade Schneider, a senior working toward degrees in plumbing, welding and pipefitting, received scholarships from the Mike Rowe Foundation this fall. Out of 187 applicants who were awarded a scholarship nationally, Strop and Schneider are the only two from Montana to receive a scholarship.
Schneider is from Hogeland and Strop is from Belt.
Schneider said he was honored that he and Strop were awarded scholarships.
"Going forward with it, it's really helping me out, financially and the fact that I am able to go out and pay for, basically, my whole school year through the scholarship," he added.
Strop said he, too, was honored at receiving the scholarship and was inspired by what the Mike Rowe Foundation stands for.
"There's a huge demand for these kinds of jobs, and with our generation there's just a lack of people wanting to go into this field, but it has a huge amount of opportunities," Strop added.
Lorren Schlotfeldt, a plumbing professor at Northern, said he was impressed with what Strop and Schneider were able to accomplish.
"It's pretty cool that two Montana kids can make enough of an impact on the national level to win a scholarship," he said. "It takes some diligence. Got to fill out everything and you got to do it right, but they were rewarded with some pretty nice scholarships."
The process to receive the scholarship was extensive, Schneider said.
"There was a bunch of different, little essays that they had you fill out," he said. "I think it was four essays about 400 words each. Then you had to go in and make a video between 30 seconds and a minute long and explain what makes up a good work ethic."
The applicants also had to get two letters of recommendation, Schneider said. Schlotfeldt wrote one of the letters for Schneider. Schneider added it took him a week to get all the letters and write out the essays and answers to other questions from the foundation.
"My video I had to take about four times to get it all straight and how I wanted it," he said.
Strop said he had heard about the Mike Rowe Foundation from his counselor at Northern. He had previous employers write his letters of recommendation, he added.
The money from the scholarship didn't just cover academic expenses, Schneider said, but professional costs, too. Schneider added the Mike Rowe Foundation encourages its recipients to utilize their scholarships for any tools or supplies they might need.
Schneider said he would use his to find something to make it easier to carry his tools around.
Schneider said he began considering plumbing because the family ranch he grew up on only had enough land to be left to his brother.
"I had to find something to do," he added. "Plumbing, it's not sit at the desk all day and sit there and stare at a computer screen. It's you're getting in there, you're getting dirty and you're actually using your knowledge towards something that's going to benefit the nation as a whole."
In his junior year at Northern, Schneider said, he met with some with employers in the trades industry at an expo and gained valuable insight. He said he was considering majoring in plumbing and electrical engineering but, after speaking to several professionals, found they had earned degrees in other areas and still received good jobs.
Schneider said he then added welding to his degree and is also planning on getting a degree in pipe fitting.
"So I get to graduate college with three degrees in under three years," he added.
Schlotfeldt said it is not the norm nor is it required that plumbing students earn degrees in multiple areas. He added there are more people coming to Northern and they're focused and they want to have as many opportunities as they can on their plate.
Strop said he knew in high school that this was something he wanted to do. He added that taking welding class in high school also helped with his decision to enroll in the plumbing program a Northern.
Schneider said he spent summers doing internships with various companies and the experience itself was rewarding. He added that he would recommend internships not just for the academic experience but just to be able to see if this is a career worth pursuing.
Strop said he is taking that advice into consideration as he progresses with his degree.
"Just being open to everything. Just to try it out and to learn it. It might make you a better person in that field," he added.
There are numerous opportunities for work for plumbers across the United States, but both Strop and Schneider agree they would like to stay in-state if possible after they graduate. They also said they understand that opportunities are important and they would go wherever they are needed.
Schneider's advice to any underclassmen is to just try it out and be mindful of the ever-changing landscape of the more traditional careers like business or engineering.
"There's always going to be houses that need to be built. There's always going to be different buildings that need to be remade or remodeled. There's always going to be that need there," he said.
Strop added that people shouldn't be afraid to seize the opportunities that are there. While the money may be good, he said, it is more rewarding to know that you're earning every dollar.
"You're working hard, but you're earning what you're working for. It's not just given to you," he added.