Justin Britton ~ Auto and Industrial Diesel Technician
Justin Britton loves machines. Always has. As a kid he remembers sitting on his father’s lap in the cab of a bulldozer. Once a year, his dad’s union used to have their version of “bring your kid to work day.” Justin loved to take the controls, if only for a moment, and feel the power of a giant diesel engine.
By the time Justin reached the 3rd grade his dad was no longer around, but the love of machines stayed with him. Justin’s mom, Heather, kept that love alive in him. She worked at a sand and gravel supplier in their home town of Forked River, New Jersey called the Clayton Sand Company. As the manager of the scale house, it was Heather’s job to make sure no commercial truck exceeded the maximum weight of 80,000 pounds.
Every Saturday, Heather would bring Justin to work with her. He would help her with paperwork and data entry and hand weigh receipts to truckers. The machines didn’t run on Saturdays, but just being close to them was fun for Justin.
In the 7th grade, Justin found a new interest – lacrosse. He played in and out of school, all year round and for a time entertained the thought of going pro. But as he puts it, “Professional lacrosse players don’t make much.”
When Justin was a freshman in high school, a Universal Technical Institute recruiter named Bob Hanken visited his woodshop. He talked about the school in Exton, Pennsylvania – about 100 miles away. Justin remembers not being terribly interested at first because UTI is an automotive and diesel technology school, and he was more interested in lacrosse.
It wasn’t until his sophomore year when his class took a field trip to meet Bob on the campus of UTI that Justin’s interest was piqued. He couldn’t get over how huge the place was. Talk about machines – they had tons of them. “I always loved heavy equipment.” It was then Justin began to entertain the idea of attending. “Each year after that we would visit the school and my interest would grow stronger.”
In his Junior year, Justin had a choice to make. He was an honor roll student and gifted athlete – getting offers from colleges to play lacrosse. And while he knew there was no great career opportunity playing lacrosse, there was a very real opportunity to get his college paid for while playing it. But the machines kept calling. “I have always wanted to work in the construction industry as that is what I have been around my entire life.” Justin made his choice. He would go to UTI.
The summer before his senior year, he got a job at his old Saturday haunt – Clayton Sand. Justin worked as a mechanics helper, machine operator, and laborer. He did a little bit of everything and absorbed it all like a sponge. “It gave me the opportunity to work in the industry and learn as much as I could. It reassured me that my decision to attend UTI was the right one for me.”
But UTI had no lacrosse team to woo Justin and pay for his schooling. “Being raised by a single parent I was determined to make sure I got to UTI without a lot of debt, but since I was attending a trade school and not college, I found that there were very few opportunities for scholarships out there to help.” So, the summer job at Clayton, working six days a week to buy himself a new truck, became the job that helped him save for UTI. But Justin found a scholarship as well. Remember Bob Hanken? He directed Justin to the mikeroweWORKS Foundation and told him about the other UTI students who had gotten help from the Work Ethic Scholarship Program.
But what about his other love, lacrosse? It’s still around. Justin started the J Britton Foundation, which helps children from addicted families get involved with lacrosse by providing gear and registration grants. Their goal is to make sure every child is given the opportunity to play a sport while maintaining a drug free lifestyle.
Now Justin is in the middle of his 75-week training program at UTI to become an Auto and Industrial Diesel Technician. He couldn’t be happier. “You don’t feel like you’re in school, you feel like you’re out in the world working.” And when Justin graduates in 2017, we’re sure he will be working – on lots of big machines. The kind he fell in love with as a kid.
PS. If you’d like to learn a skilled trade and #GetSkilledWithMRW now is the perfect time. The Work Ethic Scholarship Program started by Mike Rowe is going on now. You can learn more at mikeroweworks.org/scholarship