Trades pathway celebration marks a 'life-changing' moment

GCU Center for Workforce Development Director Brian Jones and Program Manager Shelly Seitz congratulate students during Monday's Night of Celebration at Global Credit Union Arena.

Photos by Ralph Freso / Slideshow

Ezekiel Nuñez was hauling heavy boxes for Amazon. At age 24, his back began to ache. He felt old.

“I was too young to be dealing with this already,” he said.

On Monday night in Global Credit Union Arena at Grand Canyon University, he had a different future planned after completing GCU’s Pre-Apprenticeship for Electricians Pathway.

“It’s going to be nice to start and get a 401K and invest in myself,” said Nuñez, who was among the 84 in his pathway and seven in the CNC Machinists Pathway to be recognized before family, friends and a dozen industry partners during the GCU Center for Workforce Development Night of Celebration.

Pre-Apprenticeship for Electricians Pathway participant Ezekiel Nuñez gets a hug from his mother, Lita.

The diversity of stories and appearance in the group was evident as they charted a promising future in the trades. Some wore cowboy hats and others suits. Some wore T-shirts and others ties. And after a semester of courses in the basics of their field, English and math classes and internships, they had a leg up to apply for coveted apprenticeships or, in the case of machinists, start jobs.

“Our industry partners, a lot of them are ready to hire today,” said Mickey Nuñez, who along with Shelly Seitz are program managers.

He said some are even earmarked to be on a fast-track for supervisory positions after they gain experience.

“We are the cream of the crop right now,” he said. “If we keep growing, many more are going to be looking for GCU graduates.”

Ramses Quijada holds his certificate of achievement for the Pre-Apprenticeship for Electricians Pathaway.

In only two years, since Rosendin Electric CEO Mike Greenawalt came to GCU with the idea of filling a growing demand for electricians with a program to better prepare them to enter the field, 285 have completed the pathways for electricians and for machinists, which launched last year.

“We are getting productive and safe men and women instead of people who couldn’t spell electrician,” said Greenawalt, whose company is a founding partner.

“It’s definitely working. We’ve learned a lot about the education system, and the education system has learned a lot about business. They are going to be teaching classes in the Colangelo School of Business about this someday.”

The pathway learners have varied stories, but nearly all say it was a blessing.

Chris Perez (right) is congratulated by Director Brian Jones during the Night of Celebration ceremony.

Chris Perez, 29, of Chandler worked in insurance and realized he couldn’t tolerate the cubicle life. He applied for an electrician apprenticeship and was passed over. Then he found GCU’s program.

“This is my opportunity to get in the door and change my life,” he said. “I like working with my hands. I was always fixing things around the house or doing landscaping. Being hands-on with a company doesn’t feel like work to me. I’m building something. I’m not looking at the clock.”

GCU Provost Dr. Randy Gibb said its another way that GCU is helping the community flourish.

“Just think of the economic impact you all are going to be making, it’s significant,” he said in his address. “Look around the room. You are the future of Arizona, you are going to build the future of Arizona right here.”

He said the model can work for other trade pathways as the Center for Workforce Development grows.

“President (Brian) Mueller doesn’t let us do boutique programs. The whole point is to scale and make an impact on our state.”

University Provost Dr. Randy Gibb addresses program participants during the Night of Celebration ceremony.

It’s already changing lives.

Luiz Reyes, who completed the CNC pathway, said in his speech that it has propelled him not only to get a good job as a machinist but created a dream to one day build his own shop after interning at Lux Precision Manufacturing, whose operation housed at 27th Avenue and Camelback Road offers pathway learners hands-on experience in the program.

“Never underestimate yourself, and when those opportune moments come, you have to be willing to push yourself,” he told fellow learners before they took the stage to gather certificates of achievement. “Right now is the opportune moment to start a career in this business. Don’t miss it.”

Pathway participant Josephine Osorio addresses the audience at the Night of Celebration.

Josephine Osorio, who completed the Pre-Apprenticeship for Electricians Pathway, told the crowd that it gave her confidence to start a new career after her job as a restaurant cook ended because of the pandemic and led to stacking boxes in a warehouse. Life wasn’t turning out how she expected. Then she found GCU’s program.

“I discovered that electricity interests me. Everything is connected in some way to electricity,” she said. “It took me 15 years after I graduated from high school to finally find something that fits me as a person. What I discovered is it’s never too late to find something new.”

It has also helped high-demand industries in a growing Valley economy fill needed positions. Greenawalt said it’s also signaling that employees working in the trades are treated as professionals, not as people looking at construction and related fields as a fallback.

That’s why Edward Cota, chief strategy officer with the Office of State Superintendent at the Arizona Department of Education, was on hand wearing a purple tie in honor of GCU’s school colors.

“This is amazing. The conversations we had with families, we had goosebumps,” he said. “It is life-changing. (GCU) is opening arms and doors and changing lives.”

Walking that stage with a huge smile and a lot of hollering from friends and family was Thomas Mitchell of Phoenix. He was going into electrical engineering but discovered he wanted to be more hands-on.

“When I heard of this opportunity, I jumped on it. I love electricity. But I  wanted to know how to apply it in the field,” he said. “That’s why I was so excited. I feel like I’m ready to start in the field. If I didn’t have this, I feel like I would be a lot more nervous, so this has helped me out a lot.”

Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected]

***

Related content:

GCU News: Two sister pairs charge into electrician field at GCU

GCU News: Manufacturing pathway launched at GCU to meet big need

Calendar

Calendar of Events

M Mon

T Tue

W Wed

T Thu

F Fri

S Sat

S Sun

1 event,

0 events,

3 events,

3 events,

6 events,

3 events,

1 event,

0 events,

1 event,

0 events,

0 events,

1 event,

1 event,

1 event,

0 events,

0 events,

0 events,

0 events,

0 events,

3 events,

1 event,

0 events,

0 events,

2 events,

1 event,

0 events,

0 events,

1 event,

0 events,

GCU Magazine

Bible Verse

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24)

To Read More: www.verseoftheday.com/