Never Too Late to Learn and Earn

By Jerry Sain, Director, CVCC Writing Center

CNC Machining Image

Changing circumstances often create the need to reevaluate the direction of your life.

Making the choice to reinvent oneself is a major decision, yet for many, it is a perfect solution to unacceptable situations.

While the process of reinvention requires hard work, challenges, and perseverance, the transformation can happen with the right choices.

I recently received an essay from a non-traditional student, a mother who had spent the past thirteen years as a homeschool teacher, describing her experiences during her quest to reinvent herself.

At age forty-five, she found herself both without a job or a career when her children became high school graduates in 2014.

Her lack of a meaningful objective amounted to a mid-life career crisis.

Reassessing her role as a provider for her children’s college education and her own sense of accomplishment led her to a course entitled New Start Career Skills.

The direction of the course allowed her to reevaluate her interests and choose a hands-on work experience in the construction field as an electrician’s helper.

She found the construction field to be fascinating, but the physical demands of her job were no match for her age and physical condition.

While returning to college seemed daunting as an older returning student, she decided that learning skills that would qualify her for a less strenuous job in a trade area would satisfy her desire to work with her hands in a less demanding environment.

She was advised to investigate the Workforce Investment Act program for eligibility.

The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) provides “funds to address the employment and training needs of adults, dislocated workers and youth” through federal workforce development legislation.

North Carolina WIA programs are offered through Workforce Development Boards (WDB), a network of twenty-three agencies that are guided by business-oriented board members whose leadership sets policy and provides oversight in statewide localities.

This young lady qualified for a Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act grant that allowed her to enroll in Catawba Valley Community College and study Computer-Integrated Machining.

Her classes included extensive training in welding, computers, design, and electrical installation, along with courses in CNC milling and turning.

“Every month I would meet with Lora Melott or Julianne Weintraub to report my class attendance and grades,” she said.

She attributes the advice, support, and encouragement she received from these individuals with helping her to complete her in-depth studies in this manufacturing field.

The funding received from WIA allowed her to use additional Pell Grant funds to purchase her laptop computer for her classes, pay for a dependable car to attend classes, and manage a work schedule that allowed her to take classes.

While juggling this busy schedule as a homemaker, student, and apprentice was difficult, the student expressed how grateful she was for the opportunity to learn saying, “I wanted a skill that meant employers were chasing me rather than me chasing employers.”

Now, two years after choosing to change her life, this student is scheduled to graduate with an Associate’s Degree in May 2017.

In her final semester of classes, this student submitted her resume and an application for a job with a local company.

The employer contacted her within a week, and she was hired as a computer numeric controller or CNC machine operator.

She reported that she is learning to machine items such as cell phone docks and other items from a variety of materials.

The new employee is excited about discovering how to convert blocks of aluminum, plastic, titanium, and superalloys like Inconel into useful products.

The enjoyment of manipulating CNC technology with its technical advancements allows her to gain new knowledge of how to craft objects with precise tolerances from materials with significantly different characteristics.

This student acknowledges that the training she received has prepared her for this new career. Her CVCC instructors Steven Rhoads, John Whitlock, and Bryan Snapp taught her advanced machining, blueprint reading, and technical skills

Steven Rhoads, the director of the CVCC Computer-Integrated Machining Program praised this student as an individual who put in extra time to further develop her skills in the creation process.

From the sound of her voice, one can easily hear the thrill of transitioning from being a homeschooling mom to earning a college degree and landing a creative job as a machine operator before graduation.

Obviously, this young woman’s efforts to attain new personal skills as a second career have led to an exciting midlife career.

Her determination provides evidence that it is never too late to follow a dream to reinvent one’s life for those willing to take the first steps and learn.