The Poeppelman Brothers – A Family of Successful Apprentices
Dorothy Poeppelman, a college graduate and mother of three successful apprentices, shared the unique story the Poeppelman brothers have about their experience with apprenticeship.
Dorothy’s three sons, Ryan (26), Eric (23), and Craig (20), all graduated from Upper Valley Career Center (UVCC) and began their careers as apprentices. The Poeppelman family went to great lengths to ensure a spot for each of the boys at UVCC in Piqua, Ohio.
Ryan Poeppelman graduated from UVCC’s electrical program in 2009 and is currently working as an electrician for Lincoln Electric. Eric Poeppelman graduated from UVCC’s welding program in 2011 and is a welder at Industrial Machine Services. Craig Poeppelman graduated from UVCC’s HVAC program in 2014 and is working for Area Energy and Electric.
How did you and your sons learn about apprenticeship?
Our cousins went to Upper Valley in the 80’s and I audited UVCC in my previous role working in the State Auditor’s Office, so I knew about it that way.
When Ryan, my oldest, was a sophomore in high school, he switched from wanting to work in agriculture to wanting to be an electrician. Our home school at the time didn’t have an electrical program, so we had to look into UVCC’s associate schools to apply for the competitive electrical program. Ryan transferred to Ft. Loramie, which is about 6 miles from us, to have access to the electrical program.
When our other two sons saw Ryan’s success his senior year as an apprentice earning and saving money, they were inspired to pursue apprenticeship as well. When Eric and Craig visited UVCC, they realized they had an interest in welding and HVAC, respectively.Because Ft. Loramie isn’t open enrollment, we paid full tuition at Ft. Loramie for all three of our sons to have this opportunity. We saw tuition as a lesser expense than college loans for our sons to train and learn useful skills to begin their careers.
What surprised you most about apprenticeship?
I was most surprised that apprentices aren’t paid minimum wage – Ryan, Eric, and Craig all started at $10 an hour at the time. The employers even worked around their schedules, which were unique since they were transfer students. I never realized the extent to which the employers would work with the students.
What did it mean to your sons to receive a paycheck while training?
All three of our sons have a future aspiration of being farmers like their dad and owning farm land. Our 26 year old has owned a 50 acre farm for 4-5 years, our 23 year old has owned a 79 acre farm for 2-3 years, and Craig aspires to have a 70 acre farm. Both Ryan and Eric are running their farms and paying for all their input and output using the money they saved up. They were able to earn money while doing a job that they love, and put aside extra money for something else they aspired to do.
Why did you and your sons choose apprenticeship over a traditional college route?
My kids have always been hands-on and have always loved helping their father in the shop with farming equipment. I knew they wouldn’t want to go to college to sit behind a desk like I did. I have an accounting degree and knew that would not be the right fit for any of my kids. I didn’t force them to go to college, I started seeing the opportunities they had with what they really wanted to do and realized they could be just as successful as a college-bound kid. My kids are probably making as much or more than what a lot of their friends who have college degrees do – and they were offered jobs right out of school.
Would you recommend apprenticeship to other parents? Why?
Yes! I would highly recommend it. I just feel my boys are so much further ahead in their careers by going through apprenticeship – the knowledge, getting their foot in the door with the employer, the experience, etc.
It’s a win-win situation for what I see for my boys. I have talked to parents who have also sent their kids to apprenticeship programs and their kids love it too. One of our nephews who is two years younger than Craig, graduated from the HVAC program at UVCC this year, is fully employed, and loves his job too!
Did you have any misconceptions about apprenticeship prior to your sons’ involvement?
Not misconceptions, but I didn’t realize they would be getting paid as much as they did. I also didn’t realize the structure at UVCC was two weeks of school, two weeks of work rather than the older half-day apprenticeship model of the past. We’ve found the two week rotation to be much more effective, both for the apprentices and the employers. It’s a better use of their time.
What’s the best way to inform other parents about these opportunities?
Offer information about apprenticeship programs at open houses, career fairs, etc. It’s important to inform families early because many of these programs have minimum GPA and attendance requirements. The earlier families know (ideally 8th grade), the earlier the students can start planning for those goals. Job shadowing is also an important factor. You’d be surprised how many kids know somewhat what they’d like to do, and others have no clue because they don’t know what’s out there. If only they knew they could have a job/be trained while in high school and then be placed in a career their senior year.
What else would you like to tell us about your sons’ experience?
The boys are very happy with their jobs. They never complain when they come home and are always up early for work. They only use their leave time when they really need to and are never home sick – their attendance at work is just as good as it was in school.
About Upper Valley Career Center
High School students can begin their career pathway, earn college credits, and begin work in their field – all while remaining active in sports and other activities at their home school. We’ve been the area’s leader in STEM – Career and Technical Education for high school and adult students since 1975.
About Lincoln Electric
Lincoln Electric is an American multinational and a global manufacturer of welding products, arc welding equipment, welding consumables, plasma and oxy-fuel cutting equipment and robotic welding systems.
About Industrial Machining Services
Industrial Machining Services, Inc. is locally owned and operated in Fort Loramie, OH. We began as a machine shop offering superior quality and service and have since expanded to also offer design, build & install of specialty machines and platforms, sanitary process installation, and are the exclusive distributor of Claranor pulsed light sterilization solutions for the United States. While the majority of our work is domestic, we offer services on an international scale as well.
About Area Energy and Electric
Area Energy & Electric, Inc. began as an electrical contractor in 1983, but since its inception has broadened its capabilities due to the market of demands. Those demands have brought about a family of companies either expanded upon into Divisions of Area or companies purchased by Area. The purchased companies continue to operate under their original name and superb reputation.