TERRE HAUTE —
James Welch has successfully started his own painting business in the Wabash Valley. It isn’t entirely his business, however, but it certainly appears that way.
Student Painters is a nationwide organization which partners with Sherwin Williams to help students gain experience and pay for college tuition. The Indiana University student from Terre Haute has been hired for a summer internship through the organization and is responsible for organizing and training a team of painters, promoting their services and gaining business. And he has successfully done just that.
Welch and his friends are currently taking on a project in the Woodshire neighborhood on the east side of Terre Haute. The house, once chipped and old, looks like new with a fresh coat of soft blue paint. Even the deck, which took a full 12 hours to strip, will be shining by the time the project is complete.
The work looks professional and is done entirely by four college sophomores seeking valuable real-life experience.
“I was trained by Sherwin Williams, and they are there to help if I need advice,” Welch said. “But I’m learning to deal with real problems. Earlier this summer our power washer broke down and it took two weeks to repair.”
Welch is no stranger to challenges. A former lifeguard, soccer referee and high school swimmer, he knows what it means to work hard and balance a schedule. “There are ups and down to the job. Twelve hours to power wash a deck is a hard day. But I am learning a lot.”
On top of hiring and training his crew, Welch is responsible for attracting clients, which he does through flyers and word-of-mouth advertising. He then has to present an estimate to the clients and stick to a budget. If the team does not stick to the budget, it reflects on their pay stub.
“We are definitely motivated by the budget,” said crew member Austin Hudson, an Indiana State University business major. “We are learning to use our resources, though, like borrowing ladders from our friends to save a little money.”
The crew members, all friends prior to the job, work an average of 30 to 40 hours per week, but sometimes find themselves working upwards of 50 hours. “You have to be ready to work long hours and be tired at the end of the day,” Hudson said. “But you learn what hard work is and you get to spend the day with your friends.”
Bradley Klingle, a fellow IU student along with Welch, is a chemistry major looking to get into medical school down the road. Klingle is also the crew chief of the team, giving him the most responsibility for the tasks and budget, aside from Welch.
“I have to adhere to the budget and be resourceful, but it’s fun being outside and working with friends,” Klingle said. “It’s not as stressful as other full-time jobs.”
Although painting houses is not something he plans to do for a career, Klingle says he is still learning valuable skills that will apply to his future. “I am getting experience with time management and building a strong work ethic,” he said. “I’ve painted houses with my dad and done other manual labor jobs around the house. It’s hard work.”
The fourth member of the crew, Charlie Fuller, a fine arts and graphics design student at ISU, is enjoying the opportunity to fine-tune some of the skills he plans to use in his future career.
“I get to do more of the detailing on the house, like the windows, trim and a lot of the final touches,” he said. “I’m improving my fine motor skills.”
Although the benefits seem to outweigh the challenges, these students still face the weariness that comes from a full day of manual labor. They are on their feet all day in the brutal summer heat and are slaves to a budget, challenges familiar to many American workers. Student Painters requires all of the crew managers to receive an “excellent” on their quality report card, ensuring the home owner’s satisfaction. But judging from the work seen on this Terre Haute home, anything less than perfect is not in the cards for Welch.
“When I see the job done at the end of the day, all high-quality work, it’s exciting,” Welch said. It is clear in the work that they do that these four students are in it to get the job done right and get the most out of this opportunity.
Ready to hire?
• To contact James Welch about Student Painters in the Terre Haute area, call 812-223-2417.