This is a continuation of the series “Girls Who Sell Guns.” Each 1 of these ladies is as impressive as the next, and each comes from a unique life-perspective and background. In this post, you will meet 2 women who work together to help educate the next generation of tradesmen as gunnsmiths. Owner of Colorado School of Trades (CST), Jean Martin, and her financial director, Jessi Ellis, are keeping a rich and vibrant tradition and career field alive as they offer accredited education for gunsmiths at this Forbes “Top 30” trade school, located in lovely Lakewood, Colorado.
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Cheryl: How did you ladies come to run one of the best trade schools in the nation?
Jean: I grew up in Colorado in a non-hunting household. I’ve always enjoyed the mountains, especially hiking. My degree is History/Secondary Education, but I also have had a career in banking. My husband, Robert Martin, was in the proprietary school industry, and while we were living in Florida, the opportunity to purchase Colorado School of Trades presented itself. This gunsmithing school had been founded in 1947 by the Snyder family, so our family officially took the reins in 1990. It was at that time, I started enjoying indoor and outdoor ranges. Both my adult children and myself are concealed carry permit holders and we have a corporate membership to a local range … although I am partial to shooting outdoors! Since the death of my husband, in Feb. 2018, I have taken over as president, with an incredible admin team and staff.
Jessi: I started working at CST back in 2008 as an administrative assistant. During my employment here, I’ve gotten involved in many projects within the school regarding policies, admissions, education and financial aid. One awesome thing about CST is that we are constantly evolving to meet the needs of both our students and the industry. We are truly a unique college environment as we treat all of our students as family and care about their long-term outcomes. We take input from industry members through attending shows and our bi-annual Program Advisory Committee meetings to keep our school and our students’ education ever relevant.
Cheryl: Over the past several years we have heard news stories about the increased need for skilled tradesmen in the workforce. For people who are interested in gaining a quality education in the trades, what would you say to help them understand the opportunities for gunsmiths?
Jean: We encourage everyone to do their research in the industry to have their end goals in mind when they enroll. We train entry level general gunsmiths here at CST. Our students come from many different backgrounds; prior military members, high school graduates, or those looking for a career change. Our graduates are met with a wide variety of jobs to pursue. Some go work for small shops and gun ranges as their on-site gunsmiths, some will go overseas as contractors to maintain firearms, some will have experiences before attending CST and start their own businesses when they graduate!
Cheryl: And, Jessi, how does the cost of the degree program and projected ROI compare to traditional universities?
Jessi: Our school is unique with its Gunsmithing program. We offer an Associate of Occupational Studies Degree in Gunsmithing upon graduation. The program takes 14 months from start to finish and we don’t have any breaks like traditional universities. In short, we have an intense 14 months of training and then graduates are out in the workforce, instead of multiple years of university education to reach their career goals. There are also so many skills learned within our program – such as welding, machining, working with woods and metals, and Cerakote painting – that can help not only in the workforce, but just in real-life projects anyone encounters.
Cheryl: The very word, gunsmith, tends to make people picture a male-centric industry, much like the firearms industry in general. However, in recent years, we have seen the industry become more and more geared toward the female market. What is the outlook for women who would be interested in becoming licensed and accredited gunsmiths?
Jean: We see more and more women interested in all areas of the firearm industry, including field of gunsmithing. Though our school has a large percentage of male students, we do see the occasional female enroll as well. Our school community, much like the shooting sports community, is very welcoming to females and we love to see everyone succeed!
Cheryl: Jean and Jessi, thank you both for giving us a peek into the fascinating and potentially lucrative career-field that you are daily training men and women as the world’s future gunsmiths!
Cheryl Todd, owner of AZFirearms.com and cohost of Gun Freedom Radio, has more than 30 years of experience in the firearms industry. She holds undergraduate degrees in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership, which allows her to bring a unique voice to the gun world. View all posts by Cheryl Todd