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Advice from a seasoned veteran: there’s always opportunity to grow and go back to school

Having worked in the construction industry for over 30 years, it’s safe to say Kristin Juvelier has a robust understanding of the field, with experience operating all types of machinery required for different job sites. However, recently, she was faced with a difficult situation: to keep her job, she needed to take an expensive training course. But because she couldn’t afford it, she lost her job and was left without a plan.

That’s when FastForward came in.

Juvelier recently completed both the NCCER Heavy Equipment and CDL Class A programs at Southwest Virginia Community College and spoke with us about her experience going back to school. With state-funding available, Juvelier didn’t pay a single dollar for her courses and is now working at a 3,000-acre solar farm using her heavy-equipment credential.

Juvelier said the workforce is changing, and more students should understand that getting a credential is becoming a prerequisite for securing a job.

“I’ve been in construction my whole life, but now companies are changing, and you have to have certain credentials. You’ve always had to have some credentials, but now you need more work zone safety and the OSHA 10 certification. These credentials are the precedents of the future. You can’t get that job without these,” Juvelier said.

In addition to keeping up with needed new credentials, Juvelier said FastForward training programs are special because of the ample opportunities to gain hands-on experience with the latest technology. Many of the programs incorporate simulators to introduce students to heavy machinery. “The simulators are really cool. They are fun, and other students really like [them]. They can really help get you started,” Juvelier added.

While hands on learning is the dominant teaching style, Juvelier said completing the NCCER certification required some algebra knowledge, as well. Having been away from math for 30 years, she felt a bit overwhelmed at the thought of remembering how to find the “x” variable again.

“I hadn’t done algebra in 40 years. I hadn’t done trigonometry and pie in a long time. That was a struggle. I didn’t know how to do fractions, and I hadn’t learned any of that. My teacher really helped me out to the point that I passed. He was like don’t stress. You can do this. I was the only student in this class, so it was really hands-on. The school really worked with me. They were really great about that,” Juvelier said.

Taking mentoring a step further, Juvelier shared that her advisor, Adrianna, helped her access food during a time when she was struggling financially. “They helped me get through that spot and period of time. It brought me to tears because they were really there for their students. It wasn’t just them saying hey, but they were like, “what can we do for you?”. It was a really great experience,” she said.

When asked to give advice to future students, Juvelier stressed that instructors and career coaches at local community colleges are there to help you be successful in and out of the classroom. She recommends more students take advantage of coaching and mentoring services. To this day, Juvelier still reaches out to her advisor who frequently shares job postings of employers hiring in the area and even helps her walk through job applications. Lastly, she said more students should enroll in short-term training programs, as the commitment is not burdensome, and the reward of a great job comes quickly.

While Juvelier is currently working on building renewable energy grids across Virginia using her heavy equipment certification, she hopes someday to use her CDL credential and work for a local truck driving company that allows her to stay close to home and take care of her farm and horses located in Southwest Virginia.

To learn more about enrolling in a FastForward program nearest you, visit our website to connect with a career coach today.