New trades scholarship sets Karl Dart on path to being an electrician
Long after his death, Bill Smith continues to give back.
Smith was a successful businessman, owning the family-run Albina Co., Inc., a structural steel and metal fabrication company in Tualatin. As someone who got his educational start in a career technical program, Smith was disappointed to see trades programs disappearing from high schools and the number of skilled trades workers declining.
Smith passed away a few years ago and in honor of his love of the trades his widow Kathleen gave seed money in 2016 to the Assistance League of Greater Portland. The Assistance League, which operates a thrift store that sells donated apparel, home goods, furniture and books to benefit local school children and charities, established a trades scholarship from that money for the next five years.
“We went to all of the vocational schools looking for a partner and wanted input about the scholarship,” said Allison Mudrick, vice president of philanthropic programs for the Assistance League. “We eventually decided on offering a HVAC scholarship through the PCC Foundation to deserving students. Working with the foundation and PCC’s Trades & Apprenticeship Program, we jointly narrowed the field down to three.
“We wanted to select a student who would best benefit from this and follow through with the program until the end,” she added. “We decided Karl would be our star.”
Student Karl Dart needed help to make a career change. The Roseburg native had been working in the Northwest culinary scene the past 20 years as a cook, but he’d grown restless. With a strong desire to re-career and better provide for his family, Dart enrolled part-time in the Swan Island Trades Center’s pre-apprenticeship program this past fall.
He became a full-time student once the Assistance League of Greater Portland’s Heating/Ventilation/Air Conditioning Scholarship awarded him with $5,000 for tuition, books and fees.
“I feel like the trades have been neglected, and hearing about this scholarship was very heartening,” Dart said. “I’m at a point in my life where I’m going to be a tradesman so I’m very excited about this.”
The transition shouldn’t be hard as Dart came from a blue collar background. In Texas, his father was a mechanic, his grandfather was an engineer, and his uncle enjoyed a long career as an electrician.
“They were hands on, dirt under the fingernails types of people,” he said of his family. “As a cook, I worked in a lot of restaurants and the job security wasn’t reliable. I didn’t want that stress in my life anymore.”
After signing up as a materials handler to make ends meet, Dart attended an orientation at Swan Island and hasn’t looked back.
“I’m very honored that the Assistance League is giving me a boost,” he added.
PCC’s Swan Island Trades Center houses the college’s Apprenticeship and Trades department, which includes Facilities Maintenance Technology (HVAC/R, Electrical Trades/Apprenticeship and Fiber Optics). The facility Dart is in the epicenter of industry within Port of Portland’s Swan Island Industrial Park. Companies like Vigor Industrial, Daimler Trucks and others call the island home and the two-year degrees and certificates in related trades offered at the center are critical to the region and the economy.
“I feel the skills that the trades program at PCC provides are fabulous,” said Susie Lahsene, PCC Foundation Board Member and Port of Portland’s director of planning and policy. “There’s an opportunity for students to have a living wage job in a sustainable career. We work with all of the companies in the harbor, and they rely on the college for training.”