Welding is fun for Alex Rocha, so fun, in fact, that when the end of class is called, Rocha, a Welding Boot Camp student, wants more. “When I’m done with class, I want to say, ‘Wait! I’m done already?’” and amazingly, that love of welding is only one part of what motivates him to succeed in the boot camps.

Rocha’s young daughter motivates him. The opportunity to meet new people that can teach him new skills and share life experiences motivates him. And most of all, his past motivates him: This includes a two-year incarceration that led him to our boot camps.

“I don’t mind talking about it because it’s the past. I’m here now and my future has endless possibilities because I’m here right now. That’s my motivation.”

Rocha’s interest in welding started from the time he was young, “I always had an interest in welding, I just never knew there were opportunities like this out there.” So when his mom and dad told him about the boot camps advertised in the paper, Rocha jumped on it, “I talked to my probation officer as soon as I got out and said, ‘When is the next camp? Sign me up right away.’”

alex-2-002

Within weeks of attending the Test Drive, Rocha was interviewing at three different companies for his internship and put Mayville Engineering Company, Inc. as his top pick. Said Rocha, “I chose MEC. The main reason why I chose MEC was that when I did the interview and the walk through it was two guys who interviewed me and walked me around the plant, and they couldn’t put more emphasis on how much they cared about continuing our learning. I thought that was really awesome. They were saying that they got plenty of people that come work for them, that if they want to learn blueprint, they’ll send them to a blueprint training, pay for it, and there’s just a lot of stuff that they’ve done, and I think that’s what really drew me to them. They really cared about actually making you a better person. They say if they can make you the best you can be, it’s going to make the company just as good too.”

So, with internship in place, Rocha started boot camp in February. From the first day of boot camp, students become a team, because the training is intense, and it’s good to have good people with you, “I have a positive outlook on this program, and I think most of all it’s just the people that are around me. They’ve got the same positive vibes – the instructor, the boot camp team, the other people in the program. It definitely helps going through the program with the same people in every class. It brings us closer together. A lot of the people I wouldn’t really talk to, I wouldn’t talk to anybody if I met them outside of here, but I get a chance to learn from them – techniques from them – and from other peoples’ past experiences.”

The boot camp isn’t the only place Rocha meets people that broaden his horizons, he is also working at his internship one day a week until May. “It’s fascinating how many people you actually meet on a daily basis. Everyone is different. Some people are like me, have a background like me, and some people have been to college, but everybody has different life experiences. That’s what I like about welding. You’re always constantly meeting new people on every type of job.”

alex-3

Rocha encourages the people he meets to go where he’s gone, to experience boot camps, and to at least try it. In one conversation, Rocha quoted a friend who said, “I’m a little older, and I might not keep my grades up because of the math, or the blueprint reading.” The response was easy, “I was telling him that it’s a little bit of a struggle, but you just gotta’ keep at it. It’s your mindset, you just gotta’ have the right mindset, because this is what really pays off. When I talk about the boot camps to other people, I say that this is the best program ever. Why aren’t there a hundred people in here? When I’m doing the interviews, why are there only two interviews for this company?”

Welding and CNC boot camps are intended to be the entrance into a new field – the beginning of a skilled trade that you can take with you anywhere. The side effects of the boot camp are that people stay in the field for years, or work with their employer to find a career path that fits them better, or go back to school for welding or CNC…or anything…because of a new love of learning.

For Rocha, the welding piece will remain, but where it takes him is part of the reason he fell in love with welding to begin with, “I like the fact that some day when my skills are better, I can help build buildings and skyscrapers, pipelines, I can do anything I want and right now is just the beginning. I can go anywhere from here if I choose – I just got to put my mind to it. Really, I can do anything I want. I plan to come back here to get my technical diploma in the fall; I’m going to sign up right away. I just want to keep it going. Why stop?

Don’t stop, Alex. Keep going. We know you’ll do great things.

For more information, please visit morainepark.edu/bootcamp!

Written by Samantha Story