For more than 12 years, Chris Richardson worked in various manual labor jobs in local saw mills and for a construction company. By June 2009 his employer no longer had enough work to keep Richardson employed and had to lay him off.
He was qualified as a Dislocated Worker because he was receiving unemployment benefits. He decided to turn his misfortune into an opportunity to learn a new set of skills to be more marketable to future employers in an in-demand job.
Armed with nothing more than a desire to make a change, Richardson began his journey at the Lewis County WorkSource where he first learned about the Dislocated Worker program (available through Centralia College) from his counselor, Judy Clark. Based on his high math scores on the COMPASS test, she encouraged him to look into the Electronics, Robotics, and Automation (ERA) Associate of Applied Science program at Centralia College. Richardson remembers that day vividly, “Sure, that sounded pretty interesting, but here I am, the guy who dropped out of high school to go work in the mill, and this lady is telling me I could go to college and get a degree in electronics!” Richardson had earned his GED about a decade ago, but he never imagined himself going to college, let alone graduating, and doing so with honors!
Now, two years later, Richardson graduated with his AAS in Electronics, Robotics and Automation, and is starting a new job.
Last spring, a couple of the ERA students took a weekend road trip to Hillsboro, Ore., to attend an open house at The Intel Corporation, the largest and most complex semiconductor production site in the world and a global center of research and manufacturing, as well as the largest private employer in the state. Richardson recalls, “That was when everything really clicked for me. I knew right then I wanted to work for Intel, but I also knew I was going to have to work extra hard if I wanted to graduate by June 2012.”
With the guidance and encouragement of his instructors, he put in the time and effort to meet his goal. “I was taking between 18 and 21 credits every quarter so I could finish this June. Cal Taylor and David Peterson (two ERA faculty members) were extremely helpful and accommodating. I couldn’t have done it without their assistance,” Richardson said. He also credits the helpful staff in the Worker Retraining office for helping him navigate through the stacks of paperwork that he had to complete. “Going from being a blue-collar worker to a college student is very overwhelming. Joanie Meister in the Worker Retraining office was always there to help me with the paperwork side of things.”
Chris started applying for jobs with The Intel Corporation about a year ago and with less than a month before graduation he received the email he’d been waiting for. Intel extended an all-expenses paid invitation for Chris to come interview for a position as a Cross Module Support Specialist at their Chandler, Ariz., facility. Less than two weeks later, Chris was formally offered the job, which he accepted.
“The ERA program gave me the basic knowledge I needed to qualify for this great job with this world-class company. Just a couple of years ago I was an unemployed construction worker and now I’m graduating from college, with honors, and going to work for Intel, the world’s largest manufacturer of semiconductor chips. I couldn’t have done it without the help of so many different people, but if I can do it, anyone can.”