Kerri Uyeno '14

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Talking to Kerri Uyeno, it seems she’s exactly where she’s meant to be. But if you’d asked her less than a year ago, it’s unlikely even she could have predicted just how happy and confident she is today.

Kerri was hired as a bonding operator at Safran in Rochester and began work Jan. 4, less than three weeks after finishing her Advanced Composites Manufacturing certificate from Great Bay Community College, with paint operator and bonding and finishing concentrations. Safran is a manufacturer of state-of-the-art composite aerospace components found in aircraft all over the world. “Oh my God,” she said, “It’s just been an awesome start to the new year.”

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Ask her to reflect on her recent past, and she’ll tell you this: Waiting tables and bartending as a single mother, she didn’t feel she was building a “real promising foundation” for her or her children. She had a background in manufacturing, but not the right skills – or certifications – to advance. Now? “I know what I’m doing,” Uyeno said with her characteristic enthusiasm. “I’m the girl for that position- and I don’t need to be started at entry level.”

With the leg up provided by the certificate, Kerri now is building the foundation she felt was missing before her time at Great Bay. She specifically cited great pay, as well as full benefits that cover both her and her children as changes that have helped better the family’s lives.

Getting there wasn’t always easy, Kerri admitted, but Great Bay’s instructors were “awesome,” supporting her in myriad ways, including allowing her to get lab work in between classes so that she was able to complete a dual-concentration certificate. And now that she’s achieved her employment goal? “I absolutely love it,” Kerri said about her work. “I can’t even tell you how perfect this job is. I look forward to going in every day. I’m early - and I don’t think I’ve ever been early for anything in my life.”

According to Kerri, training at Great Bay’s Advanced Technology & Academic Center provided her with valuable technical experience. The Advanced Technology & Academic Center is an extension of Great Bay Community College with a focus on technical, composites manufacturing, and academic courses that serve New England job seekers and business owners. The Advanced Composites Manufacturing certificate program consists of two levels and can be completed in 6 months. The introductory level is designed to provide students with an overview of advanced composites manufacturing and to help them select an area of specialization based on interest, ability, and job outlook.

“I definitely didn’t go in blind,” she said about her pre-employment knowledge of cutting-edge manufacturing techniques and terminology. “I was excited right off because I knew what the on-the-job trainers were talking about from the very start. Usually you don’t know what to expect -- what you’re really going to be doing. But, for example, in the bonding class at ATAC we learned about tools and precisely how to use them. It definitely gave us a jump start in the training because of the skills we learned and the equipment we used in the lab were exactly the same as what’s used at work. It seems to have made it a lot easier on the trainers, too.”

Kerri is quick to emphasize she’s still learning. But she knows the fundamentals of her job, she says. “I could jump right in and help,” during on-the-job training, she reported.  “We won’t be slowing our employer down like conventional training might. We can be more of an asset in a lot shorter an amount of time.” By “we,” Kerri means her fellow ATAC alumni. Several others from her class were also hired right out of the program.

“I wouldn’t be doing any of this without the school. I wouldn’t have ability to have this confidence and to be so satisfied,” Kerri said of her success. And she appreciates that she has moved into employment with her classmates, and still gets to see her instructors when they visit her new employer, which is quite often. Great Bay staff meets regularly with Safran to collaborate on curriculum development, articulation and more.

And if it wasn’t obvious, she is satisfied. The single mother says advanced manufacturing is a perfect career choice for females like herself. “With the growing lean manufacturing operations and technology,  it’s not like the old-fashioned picture in your mind. You’re not in the grit and grime. It’s clean manufacturing. You’re using your mind, not just your hands,” she said.  “As women, we’re always thinking of the next thing. There’s so many things going on in our lives and minds at any given moment, so it’s always like ‘what’s next,’” Kerri reflected. “It’s the same here. You have to think things through – and quickly. I’m just as challenged in my work as I am with life. The only difference is at work I get a sense of completion every day!”

Kerri said even the work itself is meaningful. “I feel like I’m a part of something, not just a robot on a line. My own personal techniques and talents are something that through the school I’ve sharpened — and they utilize that at Safran.” From admissions interview, to staying late to help her with her job search and application process, Kerri said she’s thankful for the Great Bay staff’s commitment to her success.

“Honestly,” she said, “Don’t be the person who says ‘what if, what if’…. Get up and go to the college. Ask questions, go for a tour — just do it.” She did, and neither she nor her children are looking back.

Original post: www.ampednh.com

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