Thinking Outside the College-Sized Box

Thinking Outside the College-Sized Box - Lee Company

There’s no doubt about – we need more people in the trades. In 2008, we started Lee Company University (LCU) because we knew we needed to provide opportunities to our people to teach trade skill development.

But who’s to say skills training shouldn’t happen before high school ends? Most often, by the time a high school student is in their junior year, they’ll know if they’re going to college or not. If they choose not, then while in high school, why couldn’t they get started on a trades career … especially if the opportunity is available?

Our dream is to expand our LCU vision and establish trade programs in local high schools so students can graduate and have other options in addition to college. This trade training would include opportunities for students to apply to work with our Lee Company team once they complete their program. In doing this, we’re creating a pipeline for potential hires in our industry. This benefits our employment needs, but furthermore, it assists in building better communities by building up the trade industry.

We started in partnership with Mount Pleasant High School. The 2021-2022 school year was the first to host an HVAC co-op program – and it was a huge success! As the program grows, we’ll add additional trades like electrical and plumbing to the curriculum. The plan is to take the successful model and replicate it in additional schools in various counties around Middle Tennessee and beyond.

Dean S., our Senior Training Manager was eager to get involved with this vision because he was a high school student who did a co-op program with Lee Company when he started his career. He says, “I want to give these young men and women a chance to make a good living. I want to help them provide a good life for their families. It’s exciting for me to spend time with these students – to share my story and career path with Lee Company, and the opportunities I’ve been presented with. There are many things someone can do after school is done, and the trades are meaningful and purposeful in life.”

A key ingredient to the program’s success was the school’s co-op instructor was able to do a ride-along with one of our HVAC technicians. He learned how we run our service calls, saw the equipment we work on firsthand, and observed customer service skills with our technician. The goal and intent in riding-along was to match the instructor’s knowledge of HVAC theory with our business etiquette, so the instructor can train the students on both HVAC technique and job skills to be transferred into the workforce.

A huge thanks to Trane, who donated the equipment for the HVAC lab and Ed’s Supply for help with materials. Another thanks to our Lee Company residential electrical team who supplied and ran power for the work environment, and many employees from our residential HVAC group who donated time and helped with coordinating the setup of the lab.

The cherry on top of the sundae is we’ve officially hired our first co-op student! Trey F. had a fantastic year in lab, learning about HVAC theory and repair, and he’s officially started his Lee Company career!

Stay tuned for more updates as we continue building our co-op programs in local high schools in our regions.