mikeroweWORKS Foundation Work Ethic Scholarship Awarded to Goodson of RDO Equipment Co.
Mike Rowe has made a name for himself as a pitchman, TV host, and speaker. You might recognize him as the voice in Ford commercials, from the TV series "Dirty Jobs," and "Somebody's Gotta Do It," or one of his many speaking engagements. But what many people don't know about Rowe is he's an advocate for skilled trades, so much in fact that he runs his own 501 (c)(3) charity, the mikeroweWORKS Foundation.
Aimed at challenging stereotypes of blue-collar workers and supporting those who choose a career in the skilled trades, the mikeroweWORKS Foundation awards scholarships to passionate individuals with a desire to learn an in-demand skill for his or her career. This year, one of those scholarship recipients is John Goodson, a student at the Universal Technical Institute (UTI) and intern at RDO Equipment Co. in Irving, Texas.
Like most, Goodson didn't know Rowe's work and passions went far beyond getting dirty or doing jobs nobody else wants to do, all while the TV cameras rolled. But when seeking an education at UTI, he would quickly find out just how important the foundation and its scholarship program were to his unique situation.
Born and raised in Fort Worth by a mother who instilled in him a strong work ethic, Goodson learned early on to do many tasks for himself. As he grew up, he began to discover how much he enjoyed working with his hands and figuring out how to fix things, from his first dirt bike to his own truck.
This continued after high school when, while traveling the road with his band, Goodson's mechanical instincts and figure-it-out attitude resulted in him being the one everyone turned to when something needed to be fixed.
"Too many times to count, the task of getting home relied on my shoulders," Goodson recalls. Whether changing a tire, fixing a broken ball joint, dropping a gas tank and replacing the fuel pump, patching a heater hose, or replacing a hub on a trailer, the task of making sure everyone made it home always fell on him. And, of course, it always seemed to be under the most challenging circumstances.
"Raining, in the middle of winter, in the dead of night and, in most cases, lacking the proper tools," were all scenarios Goodson remembers powering through - sometimes employing "MacGyver-esque" techniques of using duct tape or whatever he could find, and working in less-than-ideal settings like the middle of a parking lot. No matter the circumstance, Goodson succeeded, quickly earning the nickname, "Mr. Fix-It," by his bandmates and friends.
About five years ago, Goodson visited the family ranch of one of his bandmates, Sterling Dry Creek Ranch in west Texas, and was offered a job. It was there, on the ranch's 36,000 acres, he began to hone his natural skill and talent of fixing machines. He did so well at that job, it led to another on a neighboring ranch, Hull Lantern Ranch. There, Goodson was entrusted to maintain a heavy equipment fleet of 10 John Deere construction machines, as well as trucks. Never having worked on heavy equipment a day in his life, he quickly trained himself to meet this new responsibility.
He lived up to his nickname of Mr. Fix-It on the ranch too, as Goodson soon became the first person relied on to fix things around the properties.
"Anything broken, they'd call on me to fix it," Goodson said. For someone who takes it very seriously and personal when entrusted to fix a machine, "That was the most rewarding job."
Back to School
While Goodson was enjoying his work as a ranch hand and a musician, he wanted to expand his opportunities and find a career that would allow him to settle down with his fiancÃ©, Symantha. Years of being on the road 200 days out of the year, touring with the band, and putting in long days at the ranch had taken their toll. He also wanted to further his passion in the mechanical industry, and grow his skills and knowledge.
"I knew of some good schools in Waco and Corsicana, but I was hoping to find something closer to home," he explained. He soon came across UTI in Irving. While the location was appealing, it wasn't the only thing that caught his eye, saying, "The program was shorter, only 9 months, compared to longer two-year programs."
After touring UTI, he was even more eager to attend the school, and confident he would do well. Like many who seek further education, Goodson was nervous at the idea of incurring a large debt from student loans.
"I've never been in debt. I've never had a credit card. I've never had a loan from a bank," Goodson explained. "But I know that school costs money and a good school, especially, isn't cheap."
With this understanding, Goodson looked into opportunities to help finance his education.
Putting a Work Ethic to Work
As he was reviewing the financial aid packet provided by UTI, Goodson saw information on the mikeroweWORKS Foundation Work Ethic Scholarship Program. What especially piqued Goodson's interest about this particular scholarship wasn't the celebrity name attached to it. Unlike most other scholarships, this one was applicable to older students - students like him.
"I would say 99 percent of scholarships were only available to 18 year-olds; kids right out of high school," the 30-year-old said. "This one was different. There was no age restriction on it."
With the application deadline just a few weeks away, Goodson got right to work, writing his essay, organizing letters of recommendations, and completing all the paperwork needed for an eligible submission.
"The foundation only accepts 135 applicants so I was nervous I wouldn't even be considered," Goodson recalled. He followed up diligently one month later and was told the review process wasn't yet complete. He would have to wait another month. One long month later, his wait paid off. Goodson received the good news, a letter notifying him he was chosen as a recipient of the $5,000 scholarship.
"Relieved," Goodson said, when asked his initial feeling upon finding out he was receiving the scholarship.
And there was more good news on the horizon. Upon learning Goodson's story and finding out about his mikeroweWORKS Foundation Work Ethic Scholarship, UTI awarded him an additional $2,500 scholarship.
As all the financial pieces to his education were coming together, Goodson was looking ahead at the next step. That's where his internship and future at RDO Equipment Co. come into play.
Accessing His Future
Goodson was attending UTI and working at the school when the employee coordinator at the university suggested he look at RDO Equipment Co.
"She knew I wanted to go into the equipment field and recommended RDO," he explained.
Goodson had heard of RDO Equipment Co. Still, like many people do before meeting with a prospective employer, he went online and researched the company further. The Access Your Future program caught his eye, and when UTI held a career fair in August, he immediately went to the RDO Equipment Co. booth, where he met Service Advisor for the Irving store, Graham Lambert. The two talked for a half hour. Goodson was even more eager about the idea of working at RDO Equipment Co. and went back to the booth the following day. He then met Irving Service Manager, Chad Godfrey, and Irving General Manager, Mark Kuhn.
"We talked for another half hour and they invited me to the store for a tour," he said. That same day, he applied for the Access Your Future program and, about a week later, received a call from HR Specialist, Megan Dion, to move forward in the program. After one more interview, he was welcomed into the program, as an intern at the Irving store.
These days, Goodson spends his days at RDO Equipment Co. in Irving doing what he loves - being around a shop full of heavy equipment just begging to be worked on. Most of his time is spent shadowing technicians, learning from them, and helping them out.
"I love it, I love learning, and I can't get enough of it," Goodson said.
And while he enjoys working on all machines he does admit, "The bigger the machine, the cooler."
Goodson graduated last month and has joined RDO Equipment Co. on a full-time basis. The staff at RDO Equipment Co. in Irving is equally as thrilled to have him join the team as a regular fixture.
"Not only are we proud of John for winning this scholarship, we're incredibly proud to have him working here on our team," Lambert said. "He's one of the hardest-working students we've ever had and, every day, he strives to learn and grow his knowledge of our industry."
As perhaps a subconscious homage to the man whose foundation awarded him the opportunity to ease the financial burden of attending school, Goodson describes his favorite thing to do at work.
"I like to find the dirtiest job or the one nobody wants to do," he said. The "dirtiest man on TV," surely would be proud.