Companies Find Workers, Machining Graduates Find Jobs
When Eric van der Heide left Colorado after high school to study mechanical engineering in Flagstaff, Ariz., college wasn’t a good fit. He took a semester off and came back home to work. That’s when he discovered Front Range Community College.
A Business Degree
“Cost and convenience were the initial drivers in my choice,” Eric says. “Plus the school had a good reputation.” So he started working on a business degree at the Boulder County Campus in Longmont in 2012. “It was a good experience in general. There was flexibility in when classes were offered, and I was impressed with the caliber of the teachers—they had experience in their field and a passion for what they were teaching.”
Eric took classes part-time while working. He chose business because he wasn’t sure what, exactly, he wanted for a career. “A business degree seemed like it would be useful in any field.”
He did know one thing though: He liked to make things. So when his parents saw an article about a new precision machining program at Front Range, he jumped at the chance. “I stayed up until just after midnight when the registration opened. I was the first one to sign up.”
Consequently, the business degree went on hold in 2014, while Eric dove headfirst into machining. “They prepared us extremely well… I got a job in machining very quickly after starting the program. It set a really good base to continue learning while working in the field.”
Even the classroom time was very hands-on. “It’s all direct experience and learning techniques. Every professor there works in the field and has for some time. Everything you’re learning is from real-world experience. Text books are useful, too, but there’s not much sitting behind a desk.”
He says the vast majority of his fellow students also had jobs in machining by the second or third semester of the one-year program. “The resources were definitely there for getting students jobs.”
Time to Get to Work
Eric joined a small aerospace company in Longmont, Avior Control Technologies, where he was made the shop foreman after about 18 months. “They trust me with a lot of responsibility—thanks in large part to the education at Front Range.” He graduated from the machining program in 2015, and then went back and finished his associate degree in business while continuing to work at Avior.
He counts five other FRCC machining graduates who have been hired by his company. He says it helps the business to thrive. “Our manufacturing techniques are specialized. We get people who may not have a ton of experience, but who have a good learning base. That’s very beneficial to our shop.”
He says having a program like FRCC’s is “hugely helpful to businesses in the area. Nationwide, there’s a deficit of workers versus the number of jobs in manufacturing. Having well-built, well-thought-out programs—that can teach what’s needed to get workers out into the field quickly—is extremely beneficial to local business.”