A new college in Ohio will combine a foundation of faith with training in skilled trades, producing students who have marketable skills, servant hearts and little to no debt.
The College of St. Joseph the Worker received approval from the Ohio Department of Higher Education to open its new campus in Steubenville, Ohio in the fall of 2024.
The 6-year program will offer a bachelor’s degree in Catholic Studies as well as training in one of four trades: carpentry, electrical, plumbing, or heating and air, which students choose during their second year.
“What we are trying to do is train students both in the Catholic intellectual tradition as well as in the skilled trades,” said the college’s founder, Jacob Imam. “Trades offer a wonderful solution to a transient, rootless life – trade skills are stable and cannot be sent overseas.”
Students will receive three years of study in Steubenville, followed by three years working as skilled apprentices. They will be paid for their work beginning in the second year of study.
“We are also trying to tackle the financial beast that people in the modern age go through,” said Imam. “Debt is not a great rite of passage.”
The college and its faith/work model is the brainchild of Imam, who converted to Catholicism after being born into a Muslim home. A University of Oxford graduate, Imam also serves as the new college’s vice president of finance.
Imam says he hopes students’ training will also help them feel more able to tackle today’s technological world.
“We depend on these systems in our daily life but don’t always understand them,” he says. “Knowing how things work, and mastering them, can guard against the feeling that they master you. That’s why the study of systems and structures is a goal.”
The college’s model parallels a resurgence of interest in skilled trades and apprenticeships.
“The current generation is going back to the dignity of skilled trade work,” said Imam. “We want to show just how dignified and glorious they are. This is a great path – one that is intellectually advantageous, and financially advantageous.”
His main goal, however, is for students to embrace the College of St. Joseph the Worker’s marriage of faith and work.
As the college’s web site states, “The Word became flesh and picked up a hammer. To imitate Christ, we must do the same: integrate the intellectual and the spiritual life with the physical work of man.”
The college will have a first-year capacity of 30 students, and has already received more than 60 applications for 2024.