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Welcome to Episode 9 of the Perlo Podcast! Podcast host Elissa Looney, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Perlo Construction, is joined by two guests from Advanced American Construction: Dee Burch, President, and Kyle Izatt, Senior Vice President. In today’s podcast, we’ll be diving into the Schweiger Memorial Scholarship Fund, how it started, and everything it has to offer.
Advanced American Construction was founded in 1983 by Konrad Schweiger and Kent Cochran with a goal to start “a legacy of success in marine construction.” Forrest Schweiger, son of Konrad and Cindy Schweiger, was working for the company and, in 1999 at the age of 26, lost his life in a tragic construction accident. As the only son of Konrad and his wife, the team at Advanced American Construction put their heads together to discuss how they could make something good come out of such a tragic event.
To honor Forrest, Advanced American Construction formed the Forrest L. Schweiger Memorial Scholarship Fund. Dee Burch, President of Advanced American Construction, remarks that they formed the program with no prior experience and were shocked by how quickly the community stepped up to help.
After three years and about $25,000 in scholarships given out, Konrad Schweiger passed away unexpectedly from a massive heart attack. The name was then changed to Schweiger Memorial Scholarship Fund to commemorate both Forrest and Konrad. Advanced American doubled down on making the scholarship successful, and again experienced unbelievable support from the community.
The Schweiger Memorial Scholarship Fund provides “annual scholarships to applicants looking to pursue careers in construction-related fields.” From students looking for a career in construction to trades workers pursuing an apprenticeship program, this fund aims to provide the necessary support to help individuals succeed in the construction industry. Over the last 22 years, the fund has awarded over 260 scholarships totaling more than $850,000.
Kyle Izatt, one of the very first scholarship winners and the now Senior Vice President of Advanced American Construction, recalls being a freshman going into his sophomore year at Central Washington University in the Construction Management undergraduate program. “I remember it as clear as yesterday,” he remarks. “We were at the Monarch Hotel, and you couldn’t count the people in the audience, even though it was a smaller audience than what it is today. Business partners, subs, suppliers, competitors, the unions, friends, colleagues, and a lot of Konrad and Cindy’s friends and family came to support. I was hit with this momentum and the bare roots of what our industry is. It’s giving back, it’s helping, it’s building people up.”
After graduating and continuing to attend the scholarship’s banquet dinners, Kyle started giving back to the program that gave him so much to get him started in his career. Kyle was the first recipient that contributed back to the scholarship and, according to Dee, this triggered something in him to get Kyle to join Advanced American Construction. In 2005, Kyle went to work for Advanced American Construction and transitioned onto the selection committee where, 23 years later, he believes it is their obligation to be a part of the Fund and come up with new ideas to keep building up the program and supporting as many individuals as possible.
“We have a lot of momentum going into the next couple of years and I’m really excited about where the future of this can go. The opportunities are endless, there is no ceiling,”
Benefits of The Schweiger Memorial Scholarship Fund
According to Elissa, one of the unique aspects of the program is that it’s not just about the money. Although it does come with the financial support, applicants also have the opportunity to make lasting industry connections, gain hands-on career development, and indicate potential interest in internships. Here at Perlo Construction, we had the pleasure of connecting with a scholarship recipient last year that went on to intern at Perlo this summer and even won the scholarship again this year.
This program, however, is not just for students. Advanced American Construction has always advocated that if you’re going to a trade school or going into the craft, this a scholarship you can apply for. “Believe it or not, it’s really difficult to get people to apply for scholarships,” explains Dee. “We put a lot of effort into educating people that it’s not just union apprentices, but non-union apprentices that can apply as well.” This year, 5 out of the 15 scholarship winners were apprentices, and the 2 of the top 3 winners were apprentices. According to Dee, that statistic is unprecedented, and is something he thinks is the key to unlocking other avenues and expanding the scholarship further to aid people in other fields in the construction industry.
Elissa notes that although people generally understand how challenging it can be for students to get through school financially, it is less understood how challenging it is for people starting out in the trades, especially when apprentices are working and making money. In reality, apprentices have about four weeks a year where they attend school for their trade unpaid. On top of the cost for various certifications, they are also required to find projects where apprentices are accepted, which aren’t always common. Therefore, apprentices must travel extensively throughout the region to find work, often having to deal with short-term housing and travel costs. Dee states that “going through an apprenticeship program can be incredibly challenging, but apprentices are the future.”
What Metrics Are Important to Succeed?
Uniquely, the Schweiger Memorial Scholarship Fund puts the most emphasis on the individual and what they can achieve, bring to the table, and how they can contribute. This program is not about who has the highest grades, but about giving back to those who need a helping hand and the support to progress in their careers. Increasingly, there is a diverse group of applicants and students with different histories and backgrounds. The number of recipients who have stayed the course of the scholarship program and have gone on to achieve incredible success is a testament to the people that believed in them and supported them throughout their journeys.
The Schweiger Memorial Scholarship Fund is a great opportunity for both union apprentices and college students pursing engineering degrees with the intention to join the construction industry. A big thank you to Dee Burch and Kyle Izatt for sitting down with us to discuss the Fund and all it has to offer!
Looking for more information on the Schweiger Memorial Scholarship Fund? Be sure to visit Advanced American Construction at https://www.advanced-american.com/scholarship/