MEMA Technical Education Center’s “Ride to Decide Program” Gains Momentum and Encourages Students to Take a Closer Look at the Trades

Communicating the best school choices to graduating high schoolers who might not know exactly where they fit in the world is a challenge. Whether it is a two- or four-year degree program or a 3.5-month hands-on training in a trade like they get here at MTEC, the fact is, these students are paying to go to school. The question they often face: “how do I know if I’m making the right decision?” And why shouldn’t they? No one wants to dish out a bunch of dollars for a career they don’t like. That is why MEMA Technical Education Center started the Ride to Decide program in 2018.

The program began to gain momentum in 2019. The premise of the program, for those who are unfamiliar, is to create an opportunity for sophomore through senior year high school students to experience a day of work to help them decide if a career in HVAC is a good path for them.

So, how does it work? MTEC will hook a student up with a participating member in their area. The student or students will ride along with a technician for a few hours to an entire day. Many who have participated have ended up at or plan to attend class at MTEC after graduation.

The response from students and teachers has been overwhelmingly positive. Timothy Woolworth from Brunswick High School writes, “I would say it’s been a huge success. We have had three kids do it… I think we should keep it going. Thanks so much for helping our guys out!” Of those three students, at least one was snagged by the company they rode along with and ended up in classes at MTEC.

The sad truth is that the trades are underrated. As the very famous Mike Rowe points out that we are pushing our kids towards their passions in oversaturated fields where they are less likely to succeed. In an interview with he states:

“In a very general way, our society has fallen out of love with the skilled trades. Part of the problem is a myriad of myths and misperceptions that surround the jobs themselves, but the biggest cause is our stubborn belief that a four-year degree is the best path for the most people. This cookie-cutter approach to education has pushed an entire generation away from millions of good jobs, while driving the cost of college through the roof. The result is a skills gap that gets wider every year, and a student loan crisis unlike anything we’ve ever seen.” *

Somewhere along the line we have passed down to our kids the notion that working with your hands is a bad thing. We encourage them to go to universities rather than getting trained in a trade. We tell them to work smarter not harder when what we should be teaching them is to work smarter AND harder.

Another 2018 article put out by reveals: “The United States has 30 million jobs that pay an average of $55,000 per year and don’t require a bachelor’s degree, according to the Georgetown Center. People with career and technical educations are actually slightly more likely to be employed than their counterparts with academic credentials, the U.S. Department of Education reports, and significantly more likely to be working in their fields of study.”* Regardless of this fact, students are still choosing to go into debt in degree programs they may never work in and we are losing potentially talented trades people every day.

This is a big deal to our industry. This is the reason why we are so involved (and getting more involved each year) with schools, both vocational and not. We want to get the word out about the trades as well as educate kids on HVAC. Offering a program such as Ride to Decide is a great way to take action. It attracts the attention of schools as a possible activity to get students more involved in their career planning.

This is why we encourage you, if you are not a part of this program already, to participate in the program. Our goal is to encourage schools from across the state to take advantage of this incredible opportunity to encourage kids who might be a good fit for HVAC, but never offered an opportunity to experience it, a chance to get out into the field and make the choice for themselves.

If you are a member company that would like to participate in the program or if you are teacher interested in signing up a student for the program, contact Jen Grace at

*Author: Kathy Caprino “Dirtiest Man On Tv Mike Rowe Takes On America’s Skills Gap Problem”
*Author: Matt Krupnick “After Decades Of Pushing Bachelor’s Degrees, U.S. Needs More Tradespeople”