Posted: September 20, 2014
The Winchester Star
With a baby on the way, Hunter Fletcher knew it was time to improve his job prospects, so he turned to a career program offered by Lord Fairfax Community College Workforce Solutions.
The Woodstock resident is now a lathe operator at Xerium Technologies (formerly Stowe Woodward Co.), just south of LFCC’s Middletown campus on Valley Pike (U.S. 11).
Fletcher, 28, had been working on an organic berry farm — Jerry’s Gourmet Berries — doing maintenance and landscaping work.
“Me and my girlfriend…when she was pregnant, I quickly realized I needed to get a career in mind and a job going,” he said.
Fletcher was taking his girlfriend to classes at LFCC when he overheard discussion about Workforce Solutions and its Career Changer programs.
“So, I figured that would be a good thing for me to do while I was here with her,” he said.
Two years ago, Fletcher went to a boot camp for industrial maintenance.
As a Workforce Solutions career coach, Estelle Sanzenbacher meets with clients and helps them determine a career path. That could include going back to school, gaining certification or updating a resume.
The goal is to get clients into a job if they don’t have one, or into a better one if they do.
In 2013-14, the Career Changer programs and boot camps served 275 clients, awarding $85,000 in training funds and placing 23 people in jobs.
The programs have been in place for many years. The boot camps started in 2009.
“We have folks who are programmers, and they look at the industry,” Sanzenbacher said. “They do needs assessments in the area.
“Most of our programs have some type of certification.”
Others are part of an apprenticeship.
“They’re all working towards something that’s recognized in the industry,” Sanzenbacher said.
When he went to his interview at Xerium, Fletcher took a ball-peen hammer he’d made in his lathe and milling class to show he knew how to run a lathe.
“I didn’t realize that their lathes were about the size of a house,” he said.
Still, Fletcher was able to operate the much larger piece of equipment and has been working at Xerium since March 2013.
“Without the [Workforce Solutions] program, I wouldn’t have had anything to get my foot in the door,” he said. “It was a great experience, and it definitely helped me succeed.”
Tyria Newman was guided to the Career Changer program by Sanzenbacher, who Newman had met while a student at Handley High School.
Newman, a 23-year-old Winchester resident, has been working as a medical assistant at Dermatology Associates in the city since November.
She was working in medical records at a cardiology practice when she decided to do the Career Changer program. While taking the course, she did an externship at that office.
“[Sanzenbacher] was telling me about the program,” Newman said. “I did the program and I liked it. I’m using more of the skills at Dermatology Associates. I got to do injections in class, so that was fun.”
Newman had been interested in nursing, but had some concerns, so Sanzenbacher suggested she try the medical assisting program.
Newman continued to work during the day and took a class one evening a week and did an externship another night.
“I think it’s a good program,” she said. “You learn a lot. The hands-on is, I think, the best part. Everything I learned there, I do here [at the dermatology practice].”
Newman still hopes to become a registered nurse.
“I’m trying to figure out how to do my RN degree and work full-time,” she said. “It’s almost impossible.”
For now, she’s taking an anatomy and physiology class at LFCC.
The Career Changer programs vary from four to 18 weeks and in price from about $795 to $3,500. Financial assistance is available for eligible applicants. For more information, visit lfccworkforce.com, or call 540-868-7021.
— Contact Sally Voth at [email protected]