When a friend’s father suggested that Ryan Rios attend a machining pre-apprenticeship certification program at Lone Star College-Conroe Center, he was skeptical. However, he investigated and soon discovered that there was a great demand for machinists in the area. He also learned that eight weeks of training at LSC-Conroe Center would give him the basics he’d need to get a good job in the field.
After Rios graduated from high school in San Antonio he moved to Houston where he enrolled in photography classes. With the scarcity of photography jobs, he realized that photography was destined to be a hobby. He moved to Conroe and worked at two jobs—at Target and at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion—to get by. The drain of working two jobs made Rios warm up to the idea of having just one higher-paying job. He also realized he needed more than just a job. He needed a career.
The more Rios thought about it, the more the machining pre-apprenticeship program made sense. He had good computer skills, manual dexterity, and a growing knowledge of automobile mechanics. Machining sounded like a good utilization of those skills. After a LSC-Conroe Center counselor helped him get a scholarship through Workforce Solutions, he enrolled in the program last March. “What did I have to lose?” he said.
Intensive training and hard work
The pre-apprenticeship program was “full-on, five days a week,” Rios said. One of the things he appreciated about the program was the expertise of his instructor, Robert Radakovich. “He has done pretty much everything. He has even built machines,” Rios says. “He gave us a good idea of what to expect.”
At Radakovich’s encouragement, Rios committed to taking full advantage of his educational opportunity by participating in class and studying diligently at home.
“He really applied himself,” said Radakovich. “He took it real seriously and it paid off.”
As the program neared its end in May, Rios heard about LSC-Conroe Center’s partnership with National Oilwell Varco (NOV). In need of machinists, NOV representatives came to LSC-Conroe Center to conduct interviews with students.
“We run a high-quality program at the LSC-Conroe Center,” said Celyn Christophe, LSC-Montgomery’s continuing education director, “in a state-of-the-art laboratory with subject matter and industry experts as instructors, who give our students a comprehensive and solid foundation in the subject matter.” Recognizing this, NOV welcomed the opportunity to join LSC to open doors for these talented students to enter the workforce.
A ‘good job’
Radakovich prepared Rios and his classmates for interviews beforehand. Still, when a NOV general manager and a human resources representative arrived on campus, Rios was nervous.
“I did my best, but when it came down to it, they hired my whole class,” he said with a smile.
Rios finished his pre-apprenticeship program in May and started his job at NOV the following Monday. There he learned specialized computer numerical control (CNC) skills from an on-the-job trainer. Several months later, he began working.
“I learn something new every day,” Rios says. “Even my boss told me he learns something new every day.”
“He always wants to learn more tricks of the trade,” said Adam Harvey, Rios’s supervisor at NOV Downhole in Conroe. “From the time he clocks in until the time he clocks out, he’s always working hard. If everyone [from LSC-Conroe Center] is just like him, I’ll take plenty more.”
When Rios embarked on his new career, he had three goals: financial independence, benefits, and a growing 401K. All three goals have been met; furthermore, he enjoys the mental challenge and relaxed aspects of his job at NOV.
“I like working here,” he says. “It’s a good job!” And a great career.