Jim Armbruster spent years learning his way around a restaurant, but three years ago, he felt the need to try something new.
Armbruster worked his way up from waiting tables to working as a sous chef, but getting married changed his way of life. He wanted a challenging career with stability and opportunity for advancement.
The mechatronics program at Greenville Technical College's Brashier Campus helped Armbruster find a high tech career path that suits him well.
"Mechatronics is a blend of mechanical and electrical backgrounds," Armbruster said. "It also deals with robotics as well. I wanted to make a career change. It was a blessing. I loved it. It was exactly what I was looking for."
Armbruster said the training he received at Greenville Tech has been put to practical use in his job at Michelin. Classes went beyond theoretical notions and taught him how to do his job.
"I liked the instructors and how they put the real world knowledge behind it," he said.
The program took two years to complete, with Armbruster working - sometimes two or three jobs - while in college. Armbruster said he left the restaurant industry because he wanted benefits and stability.
"I looked around and saw that no one was retiring," he said.
The career requires adaptability and a desire to learn and grow with new technology.
"It's continual learning," he said. "I was prepared for the basics and I had a good foot in the door. I am continually learning in this industry as technology changes. In the last year at Greenville Tech, I came on to Michelin and worked 20 hours a week and they paid for my college. The combination of working at Michelin and going to Greenville Tech really benefited me. It allowed me to see it in application and in study."
Armbruster gained the part-time work as a Michelin Tech Scholar. The program gave him on-the-job experience but didn't guarantee employment after graduation. He had to reapply for a full-time job with the company and was required to take a test to demonstrate his proficiency in the mechatronics field.
"I passed it as soon as I got out of school," he said. "They prepared me for what I needed."
Armbruster credits his success to the rigor of the program and professors who challenged him at every turn.
"If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be where I am," he said. "They make you dig and find answers. You had to work to get to where they wanted you to be."
But the hard work has paid off. Armbruster said he has a career he loves and the promise of a bright future for his family.
"It has benefited me greatly," he said. "To work for a great company like Michelin, it is great. I have benefits. I have a 401(k). The company takes care of me and in return, I work hard."
Armbruster said his life change was spurred by his new role but made possible by the program offered by Greenville Tech.
"Before, it was just me," he said. "When I got married, it wasn't about me anymore. I wanted to have stability and provide for my family."
From The Greenville News Guide to Higher Education, October 2012
In her 14-year career with Hitachi, Pamela Abercrombie has relied on education to open the doors to opportunity.
Starting out in a paperwork position, she occasionally assisted the maintenance professionals. When a maintenance position opened up, a supervisor suggested she enroll in a degree program in order to qualify.
She came to Greenville Tech in 1992 and graduated in 1994 with an Occupational Technology degree. Recently, Abercrombie, who performs repairs and preventive maintenance on equipment, returned to Greenville Tech to earn an Automated Manufacturing certificate and to update her associate degree. This has helped her to stay on top of the maintenance field.
The only female in her classes, she's also the only female maintenance tech on the job. "In the beginning, I think it was hard for my male colleagues, but now they treat me like one of the guys."
Her advice to other women is to pursue the career they'll enjoy. "If this is the profession you want, go for it. It's a great job because you're not always doing the same thing. You get to move about, and you learn a lot."