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Born with a blue collar

When he walked onto the set in Orlando, Scott Rohrer felt the rush of adrenaline, a cocktail of equal parts excitement and nerves. After all, he had never been on camera with a celebrity.

The Lancaster County owner of Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, Mister Sparky, and One Hour Air had an important job to do. His mission: to kick down a harmful stereotype damaging the skilled trades—plumbing, electrical, and HVAC. To that end, Scott guest-starred in episode 9 of the myth-busting web series “Hot Under the Blue Collar with Mike Rowe.” The series was created by Direct Energy and Mike Rowe, CEO of the mikeroweWORKS Foundation, to dispel myths about the skilled trades industry and highlight the surprising truth about the benefits, rewards and opportunity that blue collar careers provide.

“I wanted to do a good job because I knew I was representing the brands, representing the Lancaster community and making a difference for the skilled trades as a whole.” Those thoughts crossed his mind when the cameras started rolling.

For Scott, this issue was personal. He had heard lies about the skilled trades all his life.

You’re wasting your time if you don’t go to college. Blue collar work is for dropouts. There’s no money or benefits in the trades.

Yet these were the same skilled trades that sustained him, his children, and his father.

Too many people believed those lies, and still do. So when Scott got the chance to break-down a myth, and hang out with Mike Rowe, he said, “Yes!” without hesitation.

Scott’s Myth to Debunk: The Skilled Trades Offer No Benefits

The State of the Skilled Trades

So really, what’s the harm in this little lie? Why go to all of this trouble to de-bunk it?

Because the misconception that the trades are NOT viable career options hurts both hard-working people and the industry—at a time when neither can afford it.

For hard-working people:

  • The middle class is shrinking
  • Reliable, good paying jobs in America are hard to find
  • College isn’t always a ticket to a guaranteed, good job

The reasons the trades need people:

  • The average age of a skilled tradesmen is 55
  • For every one person that joins, three retire

An influx of dedicated people — men and women— into the skilled trades would be a match made in heaven.

The new employees will enjoy a satisfying career which generally pays more than $50,000 per year as a starting salary.

The skilled trades will groom the next generation of essential workers. As a society, we depend on the people who keep our lights on, our homes comfortable, and our clean water flowing.

“There’s never been a better time to join the trades. Demand is stronger than ever. So wages continue to rise and benefits continue to improve,” Scott tells people whenever he has the chance.

Mike Rowe’s Hot Under the Blue Collar

Despite the advantages, the trades remain understaffed. Misconceptions limit the interest in skilled work. Hot Under the Blue Collar is a direct initiative to break down those barriers.

One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning, Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, and Mister Sparky, part of the Direct Energy family, of brands, began working with Rowe and the mikeroweWORKS Foundation in April 2015 to help promote the skilled trades industry and empower future and potential trade professionals.

Scott felt eager to lend his voice. As an owner it makes sense. The more great candidates that join the trades, the better for his business.

He’s also had negative experience with this bias growing up. So it was personal.

All of that was on Scott’s mind when the cameras started rolling.

2:23 Minutes of Fame

The “Hot Under the Blue Collar” shoot coincided with Direct Energy’s national franchise convention in Orlando. After Scott finished presenting for 45 minutes on protection plans, he rushed to the set to meet his call time. An eventful day to say the least.

Mike’s camera man had two cameras set up to form different angles. Because the upscale steakhouse was nice enough to let us film before the restaurant opened for the evening, the background diners were actually part of Direct Energy and the production team.

Surprised? Almost everyone is when Scott tells them—kudos to the production team.

(The irony: The video was shot in a “restaurant” yet Scott missed lunch that day.)

Already getting prepared when Scott arrived, Mike enthusiastically shook his hand.

“Mike’s got a good, strong handshake,” Scott said of his co-star.

Scott felt more than ready to tackle the myth that the trades don’t offer benefits.

That lie was a no-brainer. He tore it to shreds.

“In the community we give better benefits than high, high level paying jobs.”

Scott was impressed with the great natural chemistry Mike and his real life employee Chuck had. It was easy for him to play off of them and speak from his own experience. They were all so clearly passionate about the trades, no script was needed. They just ran with it.

From the School Systems on up

Where do myths like this originate and how are they spread? That question is often on the minds of tradesmen.

Thinking about that question, Scott recalled his high school days.

In tenth grade, he sat in the guidance counselor’s office. The adult asked him if he had any ideas for the future, meaning the rest of high school and college.

Scott explained his plan. He wanted to attend the Willow Street CTC to study HVAC technology. After that he wanted to begin doing good work in his trade of choice.

The guidance counselor’s look said it all:

You’re wasting your time if you don’t go to college. Blue collar work is for dropouts. There’s no money or benefits in the trades.

“Basically he acted like I was wasting his time,” Scott said. “I was disappointed but it sure didn’t change where I was headed.”

This experience is unfortunately common in public schools. Districts discourage students from pursuing trades, instead shoehorning the majority into four-year colleges—whether it’s a good fit or not. “Although some schools are now getting the point,” Scott notes optimistically. As a highly-accomplished tradesman, he now speaks in some, but not the majority, of local high schools.

The best means the best for everyone

Scott was chosen to address this particular myth to debunk because he was best-suited for it, given his background and current business. Yet, he could have easily challenged all of the myths.

All three of Scott’s franchises, Mister Sparky, One Hour, and Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, provides premium benefits.

Benefits of working for Scott:

  • Very Low Employee Contribution to Healthcare
  • 401k company match
  • Group rate for Short and Long Term Disability
  • Group rate for vision
  • Discount dental plan
  • Paid training
  • Up to 4 weeks paid vacation

First of all, Scott feels that all 51 of his employees are family. And you always give the best to your family.

Second of all, Scott knows that offering the best benefits are good business. You’ll attract the best technicians and experts with the best options.

“We believe having the best benefits gives us a cutting edge above the competition. It’s not just about payscale. I would say we pay as high or higher than the competition, but our benefits are far above.”

Timely service by courteous and knowledgeable experts in their field.

That’s Direct Energy’s promise. The technicians are the cornerstone of that. Without the right people, there could be no Mister Sparky, Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, and One Hour Air.

A Look Towards the Future

Since the video hit the web, friends, family, and employees have joked Scott is going to be a star.

Of course, they all know Scott could care less about that.

Instead, Scott hopes that the trades can earn their due respect. He hopes that these important careers attract more talented, caring and professional young workers.

At the very least, he knows two great tradesmen: his children Dustan, an electrician with Mister Sparky, and Corey, an HVAC technician with One Hour Air.

Click here to learn more and watch the entire Hot Under the Blue Collar series.

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