For Jessica and Joshua Sylvester, going back to school has been a family affair.
The brother and sister duo were working in Amazon warehouse jobs when they decided that they wanted jobs that were more satisfying — and more secure. So they each signed up to study mechatronics in Valencia College’s Accelerated Skills Training program, where, after 18 weeks, they’ll graduate with national certifications in maintenance operations, mechanical components, industrial electricity and fluid power.
Many of Valencia’s mechatronics graduates work as industrial maintenance technicians in fields ranging from huge warehouse operations to satellite manufacturing plants, and earn between $18 and $20 an hour.
Today, the Sylvester siblings are halfway through the 18-week mechatronics program — and are pleased that they’ve been named Metallica Scholars. Thanks to Valencia’s partnership with Metallica’s All Within My Hands Foundation, the Sylvesters and more than 40 other students have received partial scholarships to pay their tuition.
Jessica and Joshua Sylvester are both curious people, so when they decided to go back to school, they wanted to study a subject that would appeal to their curiosity and their natural desire to tinker.
“Joshua was the one who told me about the mechatronics program,” says Jessica, 22. “And I said, what is that? I looked it up on Valencia’s website and the other options, like welding and electronic board assembly, they sounded cool, but to me, mechatronics sounded really cool because it was different disciplines under one category. It’s hydraulics, pneumatics, mechanical…everything that will satisfy my curiosity and it’s all in one package.”
Joshua, 19, first learned about the mechatronics program as a senior in high school. When his guidance counselor pointed out Valencia’s Accelerated Skills Training programs, he was intrigued. “I wanted to find something to study so I could get a job right away and earn enough so that I could come back later and get a degree,” he says.
While Joshua graduated from high school in 2019, Jessica followed a different path to the program. Right out of high school, she started classes at Valencia College and had nearly completed an associate in arts degree, when she realized that she had no idea what she would major in if she transferred to a four-year university. Feeling directionless, she took a break from classes and, for the past two years, has been working in various customer service and warehouse jobs.
“At that point,” says Jessica, “I wanted to find something that I knew I wanted to do 100 percent.”
Now, she thinks she has. Every night, the Sylvester siblings come home from Valencia, where they’re in class from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., enthused about their class and what they studied that day.
“My mom loves it.. she’s ecstatic for us! She’s been with us every step of the way,” says Jessica. “She’s so happy that I’m pursuing something I genuinely like. She’s very happy and very encouraging.”
Joshua, who wants to eventually earn a degree in mechanical engineering, enjoys the hands-on aspect of the classes. “I really love going to class because Brendon (Monize), our teacher, will always challenge you,” Joshua says. “Instead of giving you a perfect shaft that has no defects, he will give you a bent shaft full of nicks and dings and dents, because you might run into something like that in the real world and you need to know how you will deal with it.”
“I’m a very curious person. I want to dig in and find out how things work,” says Jessica. “I know this change in direction is a little left field, but in a good way.”
To learn how you can become a #MetallicaScholar and retrain for a new career in welding, mechatronics or operating construction heavy equipment, please visit https://valenciacollege.edu/campaign/metallica-scholars.php