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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Maintenance Technician program attracts a student that proves to be a natural

February 2, 2021

Maintenance Technician program attracts a student that proves to be a naturalEduardo German’s work ethic, his skill using his hands and interest in figuring out how things work made him good at just about anything he undertook. He had worked for years as a machine operator and on production lines, easily making his way up the ladder of greater responsibility. “I’m always ready to better myself,” he says.

As he approached his thirties, he had to ask himself the hard question: “Can you see yourself doing this for another five years?” Probably not. He brought that frustration home to his wife, Nikole, who encouraged him to make his move. She gave him the same advice he gave her a few years earlier that prompted her to get the education and training to become a Dental Assistant. But now they had three small children, Eduardo, Esmerelda and Elizar, who might make that stretch a little harder.

“But she told me, ‘If you want, quit this job and take something you really like’, said Eduardo.”

What might be a good fit? “I’m always hands-on with everything at home and with my vehicle,” he thought, “and (the idea of) maintenance came to me.” His father-in-law, Abel Lopez, nudged him along. “Whichever direction you go, find something you’re passionate about, something you love, and you wake up every day happy.”

“Ever since he told me that, it’s been burned in my brain.” Says Eduardo. His research began in earnest.

“I’ve seen commercials of SJVC all my life, growing up, so I thought I’d check there,” says Eduardo. “They were my first choice and I’ve never looked at anyone else.”

He toured the Fresno Trades Education Center’s Maintenance Technician program and liked what he saw. “Right after I had the tour I went in and spoke with Financial Aid. To me it was a no-brainer. Two weeks after, I quit my job and was attending classes.”

Balancing school, home and then a new job was a lot to handle. “The program schedule was from 5:00 – 10-30 PM, Monday through Thursday and perfect for me,” he says. “But the bills wouldn’t take a break, so I was working about 40 hours a week.”

Eduardo spent weekdays disking fields or spraying compost. “I would work, come home, rest a little bit then off to school.” His dad, Manuel, not only helped him get the job, but he also set an important example for his son.

“Working in agriculture, dedicated to his job, seeing him break his back all his life, he is someone to emulate,” says Eduardo. “I worked with him since I was fifteen and he would show me the ropes out there. He didn’t have the education or opportunities I’ve had, and I just want to make him proud, make him happy.”

But Eduardo took nothing for granted. “There was a lot of pressure on my shoulders and I’d ask myself, ‘Did you make the right choice? Is this going to work out? What’s next after school?’ Those questions came with a lot of sleepless nights.”

Nikole was right there to encourage and support him. “Without her none of this would be possible,” says Eduardo. “I want her to be able to rely on me, to be her rock so that she knows she has a real man behind her.” He leaned in harder.

Maintenance Technician classes were intense, but exciting. “Learning about maintenance and knowing the ins and outs of equipment was perfect for the way I am,” says Eduardo. “If I see a piece of equipment, I’m not going to be intimidated by it.”

But he was not sure how well he would interact with his instructors. “I had been out of school for so long, am I really going to learn something from this person?” Eduardo and Mr. Wade made a positive connection. “He was there to give it (education) and I was there to get it, so it worked.”

The information hit all the right places for Eduardo. “PLC (Programmable Logic Controllers) amazed me,” he remembers. “I couldn’t believe the things that PLCs control and run off. We did a simulation of three different color streetlights, and we couldn’t figure out the program to make them go in the right succession. I was playing with it and playing with it for a couple of days until, using the process of elimination, I finally got it right. It was so funny to see everyone’s reaction. I felt really good about it.”

The Maintenance Technician program was a perfect fit and his academic accomplishments earned him a place on the Dean’s List.

Just before Eduardo’s Maintenance Technician program completion, he started working with Kim Soares in SJVC’s Career Services Department to prepare for his job search.  Career Services representatives help those about to graduate prepare a resume and portfolio, as well as practice for interviews. They also help students identify and network with potential employers.

“Mrs. Soares made sure I was on top of everything, making appointments, going to interviews. I was surprised to see how helpful they are and really care for you to have an exit strategy and take that next step. It makes you feel secure, not like you’re in this by yourself.”

It all came together for Eduardo. Right after graduation, he accepted a position as a maintenance mechanic with Great American Foods. In just 8 months he was promoted to Maintenance Supervisor where he is responsible for an entire floor of equipment maintenance and malfunction preventive measures. He is also in charge of inventory, and the supervision of two other employees. Further advancement is ahead as he is in line for specialized training in machine seals.

“I thank God every day that I’m not where I was before, miserable, with the same thing over and over,” says Eduardo. “With this job no two days are the same; there’s something different always going on.”

All of the stress, sacrifices and uncertainty have disappeared. “I feel like I can finally take a deep breath, and it’s been a long time since I could take that breath,” he says. He is the provider he wanted to be, doing the kind of work that keeps his interest. Plus…. he is well compensated. “I’ve never made this kind of money in my entire life. Never. But, if you work hard and enjoy what you’re doing, the financial rewards will follow right behind it.”

Eduardo knows it is not an easy path to take and he has some advice for those considering a big move toward a more gratifying future. “Nothing worthwhile is going to happen overnight. Your situation isn’t going to define you; it’s you and your actions that’s going to define you. It will happen with the right dedication, the right mindset and the right attitude. It’s possible and it’s out there.”

His eyes are still focused on the future. “I have a lot left in the tank and I’m going to take it as far as I can take it. I want to pursue more education and do everything that I can as perfectly as possible.”

No doubt, if Eduardo can imagine it, he can do it.

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