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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Electrical Technician job great tie to Industrial Machinery Mechanic career

November 3, 2020

Electrical Technician job great tie to Industrial Machinery Mechanic careerAndrew Richard assumed he would have a high-level job in the medical field after eight years years as a Navy Corpsman where he also maintained a 4.0 GPA in three years of study toward a nursing degree. But that all fell apart in one moment of poor decision-making.

Four years ago, Andrew became involved in a legal situation that would derail his medical career path. He would later find out that because of this single incident, his aspirations to work in medicine and his full potential to provide for his family might have shifted out of range.

 “This was the only time I’d gotten into trouble and I kept hoping that someone could look at what had happened and would fight for me to help something happen.” Would all those years of experience, study, and training count for nothing?

Andrew went to SJVC’s Ontario campus where several medical, business and technical programs are offered. Helena was the Admissions Representative Andrew was scheduled to meet that day. “She walked me to every Program Director – all day – to help me get into a medical program, trying to find a way for me.” It could not be done. He was at one of those crossroads that can change a life.

He released that long-held dream. “I made a decision that medical was no longer an option. I had to totally change direction, change careers on the spot.” What would that look like?

Helena suggested SJVC’s Electronic Technology program. “Helena had gone out of her way to make me feel like I was more than anyone else (other colleges) had made me feel; and it felt like this was the place I was supposed to be.”

Andrew had worked in construction before he entered the military, but his general electrical knowledge was scant, at best. “I don’t know anything about electrical except for installing a ceiling fan in my house,” he says. “I had all those fears you have when you don’t know what’s going to happen next.” But he trusted his instincts…and the one college that wanted to help him forge a new future.

“What other choice did I have,” he asks. “You can’t stop for anything; you have to keep moving forward. I just had to pick a direction.” Andrew enrolled in the Electrical Technology program that day.

Sandra stepped in next to help Andrew with the Financial Aid paperwork, enrollment forms and any explanations he needed. Andrew’s GI benefits, qualifications and requirements were explained in detail. “Those two have made my moves so easy,” says Andrew. “If you ask staff for something, you’re going to get what you need.”

Andrew hit the Electrical Technology program hard. He was determined to make it work. He made the 75-minute drive to the college campus each day was worth every mile. He had full support from his wife, Taylor, and their five children who now stretch in age from 9 months to 9 years old.

They got lucky. It turns out that Andrew has a strong aptitude for electrical and mechanical function, maintenance and repair. “Hands-on is where all the learning happens,” he says. “And we (class) put our hands on everything, so in an interview I can say I’ve fixed this before.” The months few by.

About to have an Associate’s degree in hand, Andrew wanted to focus on where he might find work, using his newfound skills. “I started applying for jobs about a month before I graduated,” he says. “Nobody wanted to pay me more than $15/hour, and that just wouldn’t work. It came down to where nobody sees what I’m worth, and it was discouraging.” Not able to find something on his own, he contacted Lisa Nava, Career Services Advisor at the college.

Lisa took over. “She tweaked my resume to make look good and all I had to do was smell good and talk good,” Andrew laughs. “Every day she was sending me leads on who was hiring and laid everything out for me, so I only had to do what was on my check list.”

It was the same guidance and support that Andrew recognized that first day he came to the Ontario campus; first with Helena, then Sandra and now Lisa. “I had that great support team,” says Andrew. “Me and my wife are super appreciative and grateful to them for that.”

“Andrew was very proactive in his job search,” says Lisa. “He was very open-minded about exploring all related opportunities.”

Andrew had an interview with a large corrugating company looking for a Maintenance Technician. “I communicated to him (interviewer) what I was capable of,” says Andrew. “He knew I was fresh out of school, but that I had an Associate’s degree and was a vet. More important was that he was looking more for the mental capacity to do the job.”

The interviewer asked Andrew if he could use PLC (programmable logic controllers). “I said, ‘Yes, I’ve virtually written multiple programs for the software in class.’ “He was glad to know I was familiar with PLC.”

Andrew was told they would let him know their decision in a couple of weeks. “But on my way home, they sent me the offer,” he says. It was a very exciting and gratifying moment.

Andrew had no doubts about wanting the job. “They hired me right in the middle of a pandemic, so there’s definitely job security. The worse they did was cut people from 8 to 6 hours but didn’t lay anybody off. The supervisors are great leaders, knowledgeable and are out there on the floor taking care of us. Whatever you’re capable of here, you can achieve. I feel like it’s a great place to be.”

He still savors that moment. “Getting that job, that pretty much just capped it off for me. The responsibility and pay scale are amazing.”

Andrew found his rhythm in the workflow. “My whole function is to keep a massive, electronically operated machine – bigger than a house – running. It requires paying a lot of attention, troubleshooting and referring to the operation manual to figure things out. I love it.”

In fact, he likes it so much that he wants to expand his knowledge. Andrew recently enrolled in SJVC’s Industrial Maintenance Technology program. “If I want to get my Journeyman’s certification and title, become very proficient at what I do and have increased salary potential, this is the next step. And my work ethic will have more reinforcement when I do ask for a raise.”

Andrew’s eyes are on his family’s future and the example he has tried to set for them. “I hope I can give my kids a very thoughtful mindset; that they can think for themselves and see things through. I want them to make smart decisions and actions and to know that everything else will follow. I want to give my kids a better life than I had.”

Andrew has all the inspiration he needs right at home. “If I emulate anyone, it’s Taylor. “She always feels like things are ok. She is sweet, calm and patient. And that’s how I’m trying to be.”

It appears Andrew gives and gets support in equal measure.

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