By Ed Weirauch
Williamson senior William Tilley may be the most in-demand carpenter in Bradford County, PA.
When he graduates in May, Willy’s options include the offer of a full partnership in a construction company back home or, he may just go into business for himself… customers are lining up right now.
Willy’s skills and expertise testify to the fact that this young man has already built decks, installed a roof, and remodeled a bathroom. Last summer, he even built a 3,500-foot house with a few other guys.
“The general contractor would show up each day, offer us some guidance, then we’d get right to work,” Willy says rather matter-of-factly. “We did everything except hang cabinets and paint.”
As a high school student, the Bradford County native worked on farms in the area when he wasn’t pursuing carpentry. Willy says he couldn’t see himself in a traditional college, so when a cousin suggested Williamson and its Construction Technology program, he took a look.
The potential of crushing levels of student debt was a major factor in Willy’s thinking that college was definitely not for him. But once he got to know Williamson, he realized that he’d earn a degree without debt but with ample hands-on training. At that point, the possibilities started to become real. Then he traveled down from Bradford County to visit Williamson.
“Coming down here was a big deal, a whole different way of life,” Willy says, describing the look and feel of the campus as well as the opportunity of financial freedom as eye-opening. Instead of seeing finances as a barrier, he saw opportunities to build his skills.
To illustrate the contrast of environments, Willy points out the population of Bradford County is only around 62,000 and in Delaware County, it’s more like 562,000. “Right away I liked the campus and I love the carpentry program.”
So with a thriving business likely in his future, Willy also knows his Williamson education and experiences will certainly make a difference.
“If I’m going to have my own company, I’ll need the skills that we’re learning in the classroom, like reading blueprints, understanding construction documents, managing a site, managing my time and assigning responsibilities… that whole leadership of a business. It’s great preparation for the world beyond Williamson.”
As a senior, Willy describes his experiences on the other side of carpentry tools with a similar level of enthusiasm. “Mentoring underclassmen has been great! I enjoy going up to night shop to help the freshmen with projects, practice using tools, and giving the tips and tricks I’ve learned in the past to better myself and to better them as well.
“I also like to see the excitement they show when they realize they did something they never thought they could.” Willy adds.
The mentor in him may be inspired Willy’s own shop teachers. “I’ll take the relationships I have formed with me forever, not only with other students but faculty members as well. Our instructors clearly care for us, we feel that we’re in this together. That means the world to us.”
Carpentry Shop Director Mike Neville, who spent 15 years in the field before joining Williamson’s faculty, has observed Willy first-hand. “He’s an incredibly talented craftsman,” Mike says, “and Willy has tremendous knowledge and ability. Williamson has introduced him to so many avenues and aspects of the construction field that he can really do anything.”
While Willy may be early in his career, in one conversation he conveys his understanding of all that he’ll take from Williamson: “just knowing how much I’ll be able to accomplish after Williamson… without any debt, just knowledge, skill and leadership.”
Mr. Neville had a final thought: “Willy is a great presence in shop, just a great young man.”
Watch out, world. This time next year, this young man will likely be a construction team’s foreman.
Your support makes it possible for students like Willy to attend Williamson College of the Trades with a full scholarship that covers tuition, room, and board. You can help to prepare the next generation of Williamson Men to be respected leaders and productive members of society by Making a Gift Today.