There is a skilled labor shortage in America. As report after report indicates, less students are pursuing the field or owning trade businesses —but this is a fixable problem, according to alumni Paul Heisler and Jack Donohue. They spoke together at the first Life on Tap alumni networking series event of the fall semester, encouraging students to use their liberal arts educations to form businesses, be entrepreneurs, and help solve this problem in America.
Heisler and Donohue, both local business owners, have had “journeymen” careers since graduating — exploring various career options before discerning their vocations to trades and to business ownership. They shared their stories with students, touching upon how the liberal arts education at Christendom, combined with the Catholic culture, can help instill in students the skills needed for success.
Donohue, who earned his B.A. in history from Christendom in 2011, spoke on how Christendom helped give him the virtue of discipline — a key difference maker between success and failure, according to him.
“Discipline is necessary for success,” said Donohue. “It’s self-denial in a sense, and you have to have it in a business — otherwise, forget it.”
Donohue first started at Econize Closets after graduation, working there for seven years. While he was there, he discerned that he wanted to start his own business. After taking on home remodeling on the side for a while, he decided to go into the tree service trade and started his own company, called Timberworks Tree Care.
Today, the company employs multiple workers and Donohue has moved mostly into business development and sales. His liberal arts education helped him develop the critical thinking skills necessary to excel at these roles, along with the communication skills needed too.
Those same skills helped Heisler as well. After graduating from Christendom in 1990 with a degree in philosophy, Heisler relied on his education and his strengthened Catholic faith in a multitude of roles. He served as dean of men at Christendom for a number of years, before going into real estate and accounting. After a number of years in pharmaceutical sales, Heisler returned to Christendom to serve as director of admissions — a position he held for nine years at the college.
While serving as director of admissions, Heisler befriended a father of enrolled students who worked in the hardwood business. Befriending him and learning more about the business got Heisler interested in trades and owning his own business — which he eventually did, founding Heisler Hardwood Floors in 2006.
Heisler spoke in depth about his journeyman career path and encouraged students to develop the good habits necessary to succeed in life, regardless of their vocation.
“While you’re here, try to get good habits,” said Heisler. “Just because you have a liberal arts education doesn’t mean that you can’t go into the trades. In fact, this education is to help you reflect on what life is about and what you’re called to do.”
To conclude, Heisler emphasized the importance of the spiritual life for students and encouraged them to keep Christ as their center as they continue their studies and prepare for their future careers.
Christendom’s Life on Tap series provides students with the chance to learn from and speak to successful alumni about their careers. While discerning a career can be daunting, the Life on Tap series gives students opportunities to learn more about potential paths towards finding their vocation.
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