‘College Isn’t For Everybody’: NY Construction Company Offers Substantial Pay To High School Students

“They don’t have that student loan debt that’s so prevalent these days”
Paul Souders/GettyImages

An upstate New York construction company is offering high school students an opportunity to make significant money without them going to college.

Harrison & Burrowes has supervised the construction and rebuilding of 400 bridges with a workforce of 150 people. Chief Operations Officer Chris DiStefano spoke with “Fox & Friends’” Brian Kilmeade about the company’s offer to the students.

“We’ve been associated with the local BOCES program here, that covers three counties here in upstate New York,” DiStefano said, referring to the Boards of Cooperative Educational Services program started in 1948 by the state. “And we’ve been able to take in high school students that are juniors going into their senior year and give them 200 hours worth of work at our main office in Albany here. They get some hands-on experience and there’s opportunity for them to come on with us full-time after graduation.”

Questar III BOCES matches apprentices with builders and other companies looking for blue-collar workers, the Times Union noted, pointing out that at Harrison & Burrowes, workers can be paid over $35 an hour while heavy equipment operators can take in over $47 an hour.

Asked by Kilmeade whether the traditional stigma attached to those who hadn’t attended college was beginning to change, DiStefano answered, “I think in this day and age college isn’t for everybody — and with the rising cost of tuition, we can provide a great opportunity for those folks that the path to college might not be the best path for them. When they come on, they can come on at 18 years old, they make a steady wage and have a sustainable career going forward.”

He pointed out that those who came to work for his business would not be saddled with the student loan debt plaguing so many people who have gone to college: “We’ve been in business for 42 years and we’ve had a lot of folks come on when they’re 18 years old; when they walk away they can walk away with a great pension; they’ve made a lot of money over the years and they don’t have that student loan debt that’s so prevalent these days.”

The employees of DiStefano’s company work from March through Thanksgiving, giving them “the wintertime to recover and come back fresh in the spring,” he pointed out. It also gives them three months to make extra money working another job.

Mark Johnson of Degraff Bloom Custom Builders told the Times Union, “It’s not just, ‘Hey, don’t go to college.’ If you’re going to go to college, go to college with a purpose.”

DiStefano explained that salaries at his company were tied to the prevailing wage rate system determined by the Department of Labor, thus employees could make between $65,000 to $75,000 a year plus another $30,000 to $40,000 in their pension.

“Obviously we’re a family-owned business, we’re going into our second generation; we’re trying to develop the next workforce generation to continue our success forward into the next handful of years,” he noted, adding, “It’s a challenge to find qualified people, but I think we’re taking it very seriously and doing all the things on our end to make a sustainable future for Harrison & Burrowes.”

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