Simeon Hester gets surprised easily.
“The first time I held a welder and it shot off sparks, I nearly jumped out of my clothes.”
Now he spends his days building tractors with a robotic welder thanks to training he received at SCC.
Simeon first came to SCC through a program at IowaWorks to earn his GED in 2010. Afterward, he struggled to find a career.
“I had all sorts of jobs, but I wanted more so I decided to get off my tail and do something about it.”
Simeon needed a program that allowed him to work and raise his kids. He considered a handful of SCC’s career options. When a friend suggested he try welding, he decided to enroll in the evening welding program.
It wasn’t an easy start, but thanks to his instructor, Mike Kaczinski, he found the courage to keep going.
“I was going through a tough time in my life and I wanted to give up more than once, but Mike kept encouraging me to stick with it. That was the best thing that happened to me,” says Simeon.
He may have struggled through a handful of challenges, but under Mike’s tutelage he had no trouble learning to become a skilled welder. Going to the welding lab was something he looked forward to every day. That time spent together enabled Mike to forge a relationship with Simeon. Years later, the two still keep in touch.
“Every once in a while he’ll text me what he’s up to,” says Mike. “And when I’ve got someone who doesn’t think they can do it, I have Simeon give ‘em a call. That usually does the trick.”
After SCC, Simeon moved to Oklahoma where he got a job building railroad tanker cars. He says that sometimes he’d pause at how far he had come.
“I remember I used to stand on top of those massive cars, in all my welding gear and think, ‘Man. I did this,’” recalls Simeon. “I’m really here.”
When the rail car company closed, he got a job at Ditch Witch making heavy equipment as a robotic welder operator where he programs, operates, and troubleshoots the machines in his work station.
Earlier this year, Simeon did something he never thought he’d do. He bought a new Audi with cash he had earned at his new job. What was the first thing he did? He texted a picture to Mike.
“To this very day, I can hear Mike in my head when I’m welding,” says Simeon. “Keep at it. You can do this.”