When Andy Kostecki was in high school, he had a hard time succeeding within the traditional education model. “I just can't learn from looking at a chalkboard. I'm a hands-on learner,” says Kostecki. “Learning in the traditional way isn't for me.”
He was introduced to the GPS Education Partners program, which provides students with first-hand experience in technical careers to help prepare them for life as working adults. Little did he know that the GPS program was leading him to meaningful manufacturing career at Sentry Equipment.
As part of his GPS curriculum, Kostecki rotated through Sentry Equipment’s manufacturing floor and flourished in the product assembly work cell. “Once I got into the program, I found work that I enjoyed,” Kostecki says.
Kostecki was offered a full-time position upon program completion and has now relocated to the Sentry Process Monitoring Tech Center (PMTC) in Houston, assembling manual sampling panels and other products.
Just like Kostecki, many students struggle to find the connection between their education and a meaningful career. Schools tend to focus on preparing students for four-year college degrees, while dropping shop classes and programs designed to promote technical careers. This leaves a gap in exposing students to manufacturing as a meaningful career option.
Educational opportunities for non-traditional learners
GPS Education Partners is a Wisconsin-based non-profit that helps students bridge the gap between school and a meaningful career, while creating opportunities for schools, businesses and communities. It establishes education centers at manufacturing facilities throughout Wisconsin where students blend high school academics with manufacturing experience.
Sentry Equipment has been a proud business partner of GPS Education Partners for nearly a decade.
“We felt it was, first and foremost, a good community service to our local schools as well as an opportunity to promote manufacturing," Says Rick Steinke, VP of Operations. "Joining GPS wasn't meant to give us a new pool of employees. It's just a bonus when you find a really wonderful person to bring on board.”
Steinke says that he has seen GPS have a significant impact on students, families, schools and entire communities. “Our passion has always been manufacturing,” he says. “If the eighty of us manufacturer workers take on two or three students, we all benefit from seeing those students grow within the company and within the community.”
Beyond the manufacturing Floor
During their GPS program, students are paired with a partner company to go through training within manufacturing areas to help them discover their interests. After graduation, they are uniquely prepared to pursue a variety of career paths – from working full-time to attending a technical or four-year program.
“The cool thing about GPS is that they will guide you in the direction you want to go. If you graduate and don't want to go to a tech school, they’ll help you get into a four-year school, or help you find a job right away,” says Kostecki.
Kostecki notes that many GPS students appreciate their rotation through Sentry Equipment because of the dedication to their education and the unique manufacturing niche.
Although GPS focuses on placing students in hands-on careers within the manufacturing sector, it also gives students a glimpse into the many other roles that support a manufacturing company.
“It's not just engineers building stuff. There's more to it,” says Matt Mosesson, Sentry’s Production Manager who also manages the GPS students. “Manufacturing can cover a wide range of niches.”
Growing and learning the right lessons
No matter what role the students eventually choose, they all grow in skills and independence. “They understand the importance of attendance, liability and doing a good job. The maturity they achieve in those months is remarkable. They realize they've grown a lot too,” says Mosesson.
The students also learn real-life skills, such as learning how to balance a checkbook, paying off loans and more. “I always say the person that walks in and the person that leaves are two different people. They now recognize and understand the responsibilities of growing up,” says Steinke.
For Kostecki, GPS continues to be an integral part of his career. “After I graduated, I got to be a mentor for the program. I help students establish their own work ethic and mentor them through sharing my personal experiences.”
That passion to develop students led to Kostecki receiving the “Mentor of the Year” award in 2017. Now the award hangs next to a newspaper article profiling him and his GPS training. But he says this award is just one part of the incredible benefits he’s realized from partnering with GPS Education Partners and Sentry Equipment.
“GPS gets you in to places like Sentry Equipment, where you get well immersed and trained. Then, if you work hard enough, you can establish a career at a good place,” says Kostecki. “If it wasn’t for GPS, I wouldn't be working here at Sentry Equipment and grown into who I am today.”