Name: Victoria Rose
College: Alamance Community College, Class of 2021
High School: Hugh M. Cummings High School, Class of 2017
Hometown: Burlington, N.C.
Company: Engineered Controls International, LLC, in Whitsett, N.C.
Job Role: Fourth-year apprentice
Victoria Rose knew in high school she wanted to be an engineer, but the path to get there was less clear.
After learning about Alamance County’s Career Accelerator Program (CAP) from a teacher at Hugh M. Cummings High School, Victoria discovered she could earn while she learned about mechatronics engineering; she would go to school part-time, work part-time, and graduate after four years debt-free with her associate degree and a guaranteed full-time job.
Today, Victoria is a fourth-year apprentice with Engineered Controls International, LLC, (ECI), a global specialty valve and control supplier to the industrial and alternate fuel market. In August, she will graduate from Alamance Community College with her Associate of Applied Science degree in Mechatronics Engineering Technology and a guaranteed full-time job with ECI. Not only has Victoria been getting on-the-job experience these last four years, but she’s also been going to college for free (her tuition, fees, and books are paid for) while also earning a steady paycheck and benefits.
CAP’s apprenticeship program is helping Victoria pursue her dream of being an engineer. She’s able to apply what she’s learning in the classroom to her work at ECI, giving her the context she needs to piece together the bigger picture.
“If you decide to be a mechatronics engineer, you should try the apprenticeship program because you will also have a job, learn how to work on the machines, and troubleshoot,” she says.
A hands-on job that is challenging and rewarding is the perfect fit for Victoria as she’s mechanically inclined with a passion for problem solving. At ECI, she is responsible for quality control. “Every morning I do audits to make sure everything goes correctly,” she says.
Victoria likes a challenge and she isn’t one to give up. In an unusual twist in her apprenticeship plans during what has been an unusual year for many, Victoria was laid off from her previous employer due to the pandemic. Through CAP, she will finish her apprenticeship with ECI.
Despite the difficulty of having to switch companies in the fourth and final year of her apprenticeship, Victoria quickly found a silver lining. “I stepped into the new company and realized it’s totally different from what I experienced at my old job,” she says. “When I went through it, I was actually happier. I was more motivated and challenged than I was before. At ECI, I’ve made a lot of new connections and it seems like they’re very happy to have me here to help out.”
Victoria views her participation in the apprenticeship program as establishing a solid foundation today for a more carefree tomorrow. She says, “Some people told me, ‘you’re not going to have time to party or travel.’ I told them, ‘I understand that, but I want to have something in my future.’”
Having to navigate job responsibilities in addition to earning a degree means discovering new skills while improving on others. “I definitely have more confidence and better communication skills,” says Victoria. “I’m working on improving my time management.”
Victoria’s associate degree and her on-the-job training is a great guarantor of future opportunities, especially in the growing field of mechatronics. Victoria advises any high school juniors or seniors that are mechanically inclined to consider CAP. “In the apprenticeship, you will do a lot of problem solving,” she says.
“Classes are the biggest struggle for me, but I never gave up. I pushed myself through,” says Victoria.
Despite sometimes struggling with her college courses, Victoria doesn’t want to stop at one degree. “After I graduate with my mechatronics degree, I’m thinking about going back to college to pick up my associate degree in computer integrated machining,” she says.