“Everyone’s ship comes in,” according to Anthony Shepard. “You just have to be on the pier when it does.” For Anthony, that day came while
he was collecting unemployment.
Anthony, 38, came to Connecticut from the Bronx in 2015. As a teenager, he was mechanically inclined and loved tinkering with machinery. He worked for commercial and industrial electrical contractors, doing installation and repairs at various companies. He occasionally collected unemployment between assignments, including earlier this year.
Eligibility for unemployment benefits requires actively seeking employment or job training. Anthony visited Workforce Alliance, which focuses on building a highly skilled workforce. There, he learned about Skill Up for Manufacturing, a free program that prepares workers for manufacturing jobs. Gateway collaborates with Workforce Alliance on this five-week program, which already has certified 101 participants.
Anthony believed he could better maintain and repair the high-tech machinery he encountered on the factory floor if he knew how to operate those machines – and he was sure he’d make more money if he did! He passed the Skill Up inventory and started classes in late February, getting machinery training at Eli Whitney Technical School and taking academic classes at Gateway. Then came the pandemic and distance learning, impossible for Skill Up’s “hands-on” portion.
“Everyone’s ship comes in. You just have to be on the pier when it does.“Anthony Shepard
Anthony’s cohort lost some time, but when Connecticut’s Board of Regents identified Skill Up as an “essential function,” classes resumed. This required following strict Centers for Disease Control guidelines, including social distancing, use of personal protective equipment, and daily deep cleaning. It took extra time to finish – but finish they did! Workforce Alliance provided stipends during the program and a new laptop and precision calipers upon completion.
Anthony quickly landed a position with one of the biggest maintenance engineering companies in the nation. “If it wasn’t for Skill Up, I probably wouldn’t have done as well as I did on the screening test for that job,” he says. “God always has a Plan B. That’s what Skill Up for Manufacturing was for me!”