West Virginia State Treasurer Riley Moore presents a $12,000 check to Brandon Littler of Buckhannon.

Buckhannon welder wins $12,000 in state’s first Jumpstart Savings Contest for tradespeople

BUCKHANNON – In an event that championed the trades and vocational careers, West Virginia State Treasurer Riley Moore awarded substantial Jumpstart Savings Contest prizes to three deserving tradespeople at Fred Eberle Technical Center in Buckhannon on Wednesday.

Moore was greeted by a crowd of FETC students as he presented the Jumpstart Savings Contest’s $12,000 grand prize to Brandon Littler. Two other winners, Shona Jose and Ethan Rivas-Wilson, each collected $2,000. The Jumpstart Savings Program is designed so tradespeople can contribute funds in an account that provides tax advantages for qualified contributions and distributions.

“This country has been pushing people for a long time to attend college and receive a four-year degree, as if this is some kind of simple answer to starting a career and being successful in life,” Moore said. “I’m somebody who went to trade school; I started my career off as a welder. I don’t have enough time to explain how I went from that to this, but I will tell you, it was a very good choice on my part, and I made a good living doing it.”

Moore did attend college a year later, but he said didn’t have any debt since he already had a marketable skill and didn’t have a problem finding a job.

“There are all these incentives that have been out there for college, like the Promise Scholarship, but you do not have to be successful in life by going to a four-year university,” Moore said. “That is not the only path to success — I promise you that that is not the case whatsoever.”

Moore said he wanted to set up a program that would encourage and benefit students learning a new craft or skill.

“I started thinking, ‘What can I do to help the younger version of me achieve my dream?’ and that’s how we came up with the Jumpstart Savings Program,” Moore said. “If I had something like this when I was young, I could have saved money through our tax-advantaged savings program and used that to be able to purchase items and save money at a very, very good rate that would have allowed me to go out and achieve my dream.”

The monetary awards presented to the content winners must be spent to help them further their careers in their chosen trade.

“I think there are some welders out here, and all of you are going to probably be moving to lots of different job sites, so if you don’t have a vehicle, you’re not going to be able to get work,” Moore said. “That is allowable in the Jumpstart Savings Program, so you can go ahead and get up and work and be a productive employee. The expenses that can be covered are very broad.”

This is the first program of its kind, but Moore is hoping to expand it to other states.

“We started this program just a couple of years back, and we have a few hundred participants in this now,” he said. “This is a way that West Virginia is leading the way in terms of how we’re going to incentivize this type of work in this country. I think a lot of people are going to want to replicate what we’re doing here in West Virginia.”

Littler, an alumna of Fred Eberle Technical Center, is a welder, and he said he plans to purchase equipment with his prize money and hopes to work locally. Shona Jose of Bridgeport is an electrician and plans to purchase equipment. Ethan Rivas-Wilson of Morgantown is a barber, and he hopes to find a new place to rent with his winnings. More information about the program and contest are available at www.wvjumpstart.com.

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