BY BRUCE MILLS
Jakob Nabholz of Alcolu grew up doing home repairs with his dad's business and then as a teenager developed a love for working on cars. Later it became motorcycles - working on his own and others' …
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Jakob Nabholz of Alcolu grew up doing home repairs with his dad's business and then as a teenager developed a love for working on cars. Later it became motorcycles - working on his own and others' bikes.
When he was a senior in high school, Nabholz toured the various industrial and engineering technology programs at Central Carolina Technical College. He took a liking to the Computerized Machine Tool manufacturing program, which involves the use of computers to control machine tools in the production process, and decided to enroll after graduation.
What interested him in the program?
"Being able to take a blank piece of steel and make something out of it was fascinating to me," Nabholz said.
Fast forward two years and Nabholz, 20, has earned the college's Basic Machining and Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Fundamentals certificate and the Advanced CNC Programming certificate and has a full-time job at Apex Tool Group in Sumter. Apex actually hired him last December, when he still had a semester of school remaining for his second certification. Last spring, he attended class from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and then clocked in for his eight-hour shift at Apex at 4 p.m.
He earns a solid wage - enough to rent his own apartment and live on his own and pay for pursuing his next ambition: more schooling to learn the repair side of CNC/Machine Tool through CCTC's Mechatronics program. Being skilled in repair work on manufacturing equipment, with his focus on CNC/Machine Tool equipment, can open the door for even bigger opportunities, he said.
Nabholz began the Basic Mechatronics Technology Certificate program in August. Two days a week he's in class from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the new Advanced Manufacturing Technology Training Center at 853 Broad St. and goes to work at Apex at 3 p.m. The rest of the week, he just works, starting also at 3 p.m. He also attests to working a lot of weekends.
"My parents instilled me with a good work ethic, you could say," Nabholz said. "And Apex is willing to work with you, if you want to pursue more education. I really don't have a lot of free time, but with the little that I have I love motorcycles - riding and working on them."
Nabholz is one of many success stories from Central Carolina's Industrial and Engineering Technology program. The program offers six courses of study: CNC/Machine Tool; Mechatronics; Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC); Automotive Technology; Welding; and Engineering Graphics.
Brent Russell, dean of CCTC's industrial program, says new graduates from the various programs can find work locally and expect to earn in the range of $15 to $20 per hour.
"Mechatronics is definitely a hot program locally with employers, and also across the entire country," Russell said. "Being able to troubleshoot electronic and mechanical issues in manufacturing is a critical skill set in plants today."
Russell said the other five programs are important to local industry as well, and he says the six programs overall boast more than a 90 percent placement rate.
Ladell Humphries, academic program manager over CNC/Machine Tool and also one of Nabholz's primary instructors when he was in the course, said many local manufacturers hire directly from his program because most plants have CNC manufacturing capabilities.
"We are always looking for students," Humphries said. "We have companies that are dying for employees right now, and we just don't have enough to send them. We're sending them everybody we've got.
"Some even get jobs before they graduate, like Jakob," Humphries said.
The pay is good as well in CNC/Machine Tool. Humphries said his graduates start out at $16 to $24 per hour, depending on the employer.
Nabholz agreed on the pay. "It's great. Enough to buy Harleys," he said. "I am buying my first one this week."
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