My first job was as a welder. After I completed trade school and became certified, I worked at a mining operation and was responsible for maintaining all on-site equipment.
It was hard work, but it was rewarding, and it led me to want to open my own mobile welding business.
I planned to buy a truck outfitted with a quality welding rig so I could travel to customers, then eventually grow the business to include multiple trucks and several employees.
My excitement at the prospect of owning my own small business soon ended when I calculated the total starting costs needed to buy all of the necessary equipment.
The welding machine (always loved Miller!), the truck, an oxy acetylene torch, and other equipment was simply too much for a young man recently out of trade school.
Additionally, I didn’t want to take on that amount of debt so early in my life. I had saved and economized, but the cost of getting started in my trade was prohibitively expensive.
West Virginia needs a savings account option for recently-trained tradesmen, truck drivers and laborers looking to buy tools and equipment, or pay for certifications and licenses.
College students can use 529 college savings accounts to reduce their debt burden as they enter the workforce.
Our blue-collar workers deserve the same opportunity. Community college, technical and trade schools, and training programs are a critical part of our state’s educational and workforce development system.
Those who pursue opportunities in skilled trades, manufacturing and labor are hardworking, successful professionals who are the backbone of our state’s economy. Many will become our small business leaders of tomorrow. Helping them succeed is economically essential. It is also the right thing to do.
That’s why if I am elected Treasurer of the State of West Virginia, I will begin “The Jump Start Savings Plan.”
This program will mirror the current Smart 529 College Savings Plan that allows individuals and family members to save and invest pre-tax money in a special account, which can later be used to pay for tuition, books and computers.
My Jump Start Savings Plan will do the same, allowing individuals and families to save pre-tax money to pay for the equipment, tools, certificates and licenses necessary for their chosen trades and fields.
While tuition for technical education and community college programs can be covered by the state, entering a skilled trade still brings hidden costs.
The Jump Start Plan would be available to West Virginians who want to start their own businesses, work with a labor union, or take a job with a high-tech manufacturer in our state.
The amount allowed to be saved will be capped to avoid abuse, and accounts will only be permitted to benefit people just starting out – not already well-established businesses.
It would help the workers of West Virginia realize their vocational and career aspirations, make us an attractive destination for employers, and undoubtedly help our state’s economy.
For too long, we have heard cheap talk and empty promises regarding our small businesses, skilled trades, and manufacturing workforce. That ends when I am elected Treasurer. We can no longer allow government to pick and choose winners and losers in our workforce, deciding who gets the good jobs and who doesn’t. We must invest in all areas of our job market and make West Virginia the greatest economy it can be. We can, and we will, lead this effort! And that can begin with the Jump Start Savings Plan.
Riley Moore is a Republican candidate for State Treasurer in 2020. He is a former Delegate in the West Virginia State Legislature. He lives in Harpers Ferry with his wife, Mina and daughter, Lena.