At 18 years old, Hunter Wess is already saving for a house.
That’s not all the fiscal responsibility he has.
“I just opened a retirement fund, too. When I’m 19, I’ll get a 401k.”
These benefits were made possible through WorkAdvance.
Taking advantage of WorkAdvance
Wess was able to set up his future right out of high school taking a job at Extrudex Aluminum in North Jackson.
Helping him gain a range of skills to prepare for the opportunity was WorkAdvance.
Offered through MVMC, those enrolled learn the basics of manufacturing while earning a stipend over a six-week period.
The course was offered while Wess, 18, was a senior at MVMC education partner, Trumbull Career and Technical Center.
“I went through the classes to get manufacturing certificates,” he said.
Through a partnership with Goodwill Industries, Wess also earned customer service credentials.
“They helped us with practicing what to do in interviews,” Wess said.
Right after graduation, he was hired to work on the saw, stacking aluminum extrusions. He learned how to use the crane and stretchers so he can straighten the extrusion as it comes out of the press.
Now, “I’m learning how to run the extrusion press.”
Prior to enrolling in WorkAdvance, Wess didn’t know what was involved in manufacturing. “I had no idea about plants like Extrudex and how they run.”
Originally, he went to TCTC for the construction track, specifically to build house frames.
Now that he has an understanding of manufacturing, he’s happy he can do what he enjoys and get paid for it.
“I’ve always had a fascination with seeing machines, figuring out how they work. Now I work with these giant industrial machines and I run them.”
Having that work-life balance
Throughout high school, Wess worked in fast-food.
That meant scarce wages, unpredictable schedules and no health insurance.
Working at Extrudex, Wess works two 12-hour shifts, then is off for two days. “I get a lot of days off to do whatever I want.” There is also plenty of opportunity to work overtime, he said.
It was through WorkAdvance that he was able to have stability at a young age.
Mostly online, he said it was worth the time and energy. “I ended up learning a lot more than I thought I would.”
Most of what he learned through the program he was able to apply directly to his job at Extrudex.
“There was some stuff I thought I would never use, but I came here and thought, ‘Oh, now it makes sense.’”
Going through WorkAdvance, Wess was able to learn certain skills faster at Extrudex because he already had an idea of what to expect, he said.
For example, there was an entire section on cranes, which came in handy. “I already knew how to do all of the safety and run the cranes.”
As Wess has worked at Extrudex, he has picked up what his peers do, and they have helped teach him how to use machinery.
“I learned how to run the saw as I stood and watched them,” he said. Eventually, he learned all the different commands on the keyboard, and he’s built his skills from there.
As he learns new skills, Wess is able to work other jobs at Extrudex.
“If the saw operator’s not able to come in, I can do it.”
The ability to learn a swatch of skills is an all-hands-on-deck approach at Extrudex, Wess said. There’s also a team-oriented atmosphere with the company.
He works with the same people, so he’s gotten to know them. Sometimes they’ll hang out.
“Everyone helps each other.” Whenever someone can’t make it to work, everyone pitches in and shuffles jobs for the day if needed to keep operations smooth, Wess said.
Go for it
Now that he has been learning the ropes of manufacturing, Wess said he sees himself doing his line of work for a long time.
Anyone looking for a first-time job or a career change should consider manufacturing, he said.
“The best thing you can do is research” when job searching.
For manufacturing, “you don’t need a whole lot of external training to come here. They have entry-level positions and as you learn, you move up,” Wess said.
“It’s definitely worth it.”
When he’s not working, Wess spends time with friends, camping and working in the man cave – his shed.