The day after he graduated from Hempstead High School, Justin Beck started a full-time job as a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machinist at Decker Precision Machining in Peosta—no small feat in an economy in which few high school students can find even part-time summer jobs.
But just three months earlier, Justin’s post-graduation plans had been far less clear. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he says. “Judy Simon, Hempstead’s I-JAG Education Specialist, told me about this new advanced manufacturing program.” He credits her in helping unlock his potential.
The new program, known as Opportunity Dubuque, was created by a coalition convened through the Community Foundation’s Project HOPE initiative; partners include the City of Dubuque, Greater Dubuque Development Corporation, East Central Intergovernmental Agency, IowaWorks, Dubuque Community School District, Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) and The Circles Initiative.
Opportunity Dubuque participants are selected through an interview and assessment process and receive full scholarships for three months of training at NICC. Graduates can then choose to interview with employers seeking skilled entry-level employees at $10-$18 an hour or to continue their education by earning a degree.
Justin completed the three CNC training classes during his second semester and graduated from the program three weeks before his high school graduation. Nearly all of the 19 pilot program graduates, including many displaced adult workers, went on to full-time employment while the rest chose to continue their education.
Justin is considering NICC’s full-year CNC machining program to expand his opportunities at Decker. In the meantime, he’s telling all his friends about Opportunity Dubuque. “It’s a great opportunity,” he says, “and a great way to get a job.”