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May 28, 2021 8:00 AM CDT

Williamson College: Building Tomorrow’s Skilled-trade Leaders


Williamson College offers six specialized trade education programs for young men. At this junior vocational college, programs integrate skilled teaching and leadership development into a character-based curriculum that aims to equip financially disadvantaged young men for a career in a skilled profession. 


Established in December 1888 by Isaiah Vansant Williamson, the Williamson College of the Trades is a private vocational college in Pennsylvania. The campus is housed on 220 acres of land in Middletown Township. 

The college selected Frank Furness, the renowned Pennsylvania architect, to design its campus. In step with the college's plan to maintain its rural feel, the buildings are known for their simple design and understated beauty. 

The campus has multiple facilities to house its specialized courses. The John Wanamaker Free School of Artisans holds the school's carpentry, machine, paint, and masonry shops. The Dorrance H. Hamilton Horticultural Center is home to the school's horticultural program, and the Lipp Educational Center holds the college’s classrooms, technical library, and computer laboratory. 

Students are required to live in one of the college's 12 dorms for the duration of the program. There are plenty of student facilities available, including an indoor running track, weight room, and several athletic fields for football, baseball, soccer, lacrosse, and tennis. 

The Williamson College is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges. 


Williamson College is unlike any other trade school in the United States. Intending to equip young men with career-building trade skills that they may not afford otherwise, students receive 100% financial support from both the school and donors. These scholarships cover tuition, textbooks, room, and board. Students are positioned to enter the workforce with valuable trade skills with the added advantage of being debt-free. 

While the typical Associate's Degree requires two years to complete, the Williamson College programs are based on a three-year completion date. Their trade education programs extend beyond the traditional classroom work to incorporate internships and hands-on lab work. This innovative approach reinforces practical skills learned and expands the student's knowledge. In addition to trade skills, each program's emphasis on character-building and leadership training helps mold students into reliable and skilled workers, according to Bradley Richardson. 

The trade programs at Williamson College follow a cohort model whereby students move through the program as a group. Not only does this foster strong relationships between students, but it can also motivate them to stay in the program until its completion. According to Williamson College, their average graduation rate is 75%. 

With its added emphasis on leadership and hands-on training, the entire curriculum takes three years to complete. All students are required to attend the college on a full-time basis. Depending on the program, students typically complete the equivalent of 145 credit hours, which consists of classroom work, lab or shop training, and practicum instruction. 

Throughout the program, students learn necessary trade skills and are encouraged to think beyond just the tools needed to complete the job. Understanding the mechanics and mathematics behind a job is key to making good decisions when approaching a task or on the job site. In addition, to develop their leadership and training skills, students entering their third year are charged with teaching first-year students.

Students who successfully graduate from the program receive an Associate in Specialized Technology Degree.


Williamson College programs center on a general academic curriculum. These core courses are designed to provide a well-rounded education that equips students to become leaders in their fields. The programs are targeted toward students seeking a career as a job site supervisor, construction superintendent, project manager, or to become future owners of their firm. 

Beyond general academics, students have a choice of six specialized trade programs. Coursework extends beyond gaining skills in each trade and focuses on developing management and leadership traits within the student. 

Masonry:  Students begin this three-year program by learning such masonry basics as tools, spreading mortar, and safety. From there, they progress to intermediate and complex projects, such as building walls and fireplaces. 

The program equips students with the ability to carry out entire projects from start to finish. They learn skills critical to the job site, such as cost estimation, site layout, and general contracting. The program addresses other vital areas such as reading blueprints, bidding, building permits, mandatory site tests, and other contracting procedures. Students receive instruction on the managerial, administrative, technical, and logistical aspects of the construction industry to prepare them for supervisory positions in large firms or run their own business. 

According to Bradley Richardson, masonry is one of the most sought-after programs at the school, with “96% of our guys are walking across the stage graduation with a job in hand.”

Williamson also offers other trade programs such as carpentry, paint & coatings technology, machinery tool technology, and more to incoming interested students. In order to further prepare them for the professional world. Williamson College plans to change its trade program offerings. In 2022, the college will introduce an electrical program specialization. The college will no longer offer the paint and coatings technology specialization to new students in 2022. 


Williamson College helps young men take control of their financial future. Through its innovative coursework and hands-on approach, students participating in the program gain valuable trade skills to help them find a job. Summer internships build and enhance the student’s technical and leadership abilities. In some cases, these internships may result in career opportunities upon graduation. 

Since the college provides quality education at no cost, students emerge from the program in a stronger financial position. With each program's continued emphasis on character building and leadership development, Williamson College helps young men acquire skills that can influence the trajectory of their lives.

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