Shaping careers with jigsaws

Posted on: August 02, 2013

From left, Director of Admissions Martin Perez, Vice President for Instruction Amy Locklear, student Stanley Solis, professor Luis Sabido, student Julian Saldierna and student Leo Hernandez.

While crafting customized projects from Harry Potter wands to cabinet fronts, College of the Mainland students learned woodworking – and life – skills while participating in a five-month study abroad program in Canada.
 
During the semester-long program, which will be offered again during the fall 2013 semester, students Leo Hernandez, Julian Saldierna and Stanley Solis traveled to College Communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick, a two-year school in New Brunswick that offers hands-on courses in cabinetmaking and woodworking and instruction in green building techniques. Taking four workshop classes, students learned to use complex AutoCAD design software and computerized numerical control machines, which allowed students to program coordinates into a grid and watch the drill slice a precise pattern to match their specifications.
 
For student Julian Saldierna, of Bacliff, the program opened up a new career possibility.
 
“I really enjoyed working with the CNC (computer numerical control) machine. It helped me figure out what I really want to do as a career,” Saldierna said.

Originally intending to pursue mechanical engineering, Saldierna has shifted his focus to computer engineering and hopes to work with computer security software. Besides discovering his passion in Canada, he also collected international references for his resume.

“It expanded my network,” said Saldierna. “Two professors in Canada wrote letters of recommendation. It gave me a better opportunity to get in the career I want.”
 
Saldierna’s eye-opening revelation and newfound connections are exactly what the program, funded by the federal North American Mobility Grant, aims to foster, said Luis Sabido, COM professor and program coordinator.
 
“That’s the beauty of an international program – to spark in a student the drive to pursue the career that he feels will best fit his talents and skills,” said Sabido. “Companies are looking for people with international experience. You’re positioning yourself for a job in the future.”
 
Learning to use both hand and computer-controlled tools to craft furniture, game boards, rolling pins and creations of their own design, students also observed firsthand the college’s strategies to reduce waste and reuse materials.
 
“What they were teaching us was to use that sheet of wood as efficiently as possible,” said Stanley Solis, of Texas City, who plans to use what he learned in his experience in his current work as a handyman. “Scrap wood they burn and use for heat. The least amount of waste you have, the more money you make.”
 
In students’ off hours, the beautiful Canadian countryside provided opportunities to connect with other students. They often explored the nearly 1,000-foot-high Sugarloaf Mountain within a 15-minute walk from their home. As winter turned to spring, they enjoyed a group bonfire on the beach.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me, experiencing the people,” said student Leo Hernandez, of Dickinson. “They were so friendly. I wish we could have brought them back with us.”
 
Students interested in joining the program in the fall should contact professor Luis Sabido at lsabido@com.edu or 409-933-8374.

As the semester progressed, students’ projects became more complex beginning with simple rolling pins and advancing to projects of their own design, such as personalized music boxes.


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