Life After Youth Apprenticeship

One-on-One with Steven Sanchez

Life After Youth Apprenticeship

One-on-One with Steven Sanchez

Each year during our graduation ceremony, AJAC recognizes one graduating Youth Apprentice as the “Outstanding Youth Apprentice of the Year” award recipient. The recipient of this award during our 2022 commencement ceremony was Steven Sanchez, a high school student who took the leap into apprenticeship at the young age of 16.

After receiving an offer letter from Pexco Aerospace, Steven started his AJAC apprenticeship as a Production Technician through our partnership with West Valley High School in Yakima, Washington.

Steven made an immediate impact on his colleagues and instructor—excelling in his high school machining classes while finding his passion for engineering on the shop floor. After completing AJAC’s apprenticeship, Steven enrolled at a local college to pursue his dream of becoming an Industrial Engineer.

We sat down with Steven to learn more about the impact Youth Apprenticeship made on his blossoming career and how apprenticeship tied in with his dreams of becoming an engineer.

Steven Sanchez wins youth apprenticeship award during AJAC's 2022 graduation ceremony
Steven Sanchez learns machining at Pexco Aerospace Steven Sanchez gives his acceptance speech for winning AJAC's Outstanding Youth Apprentice of the Year Award

8 Questions with Steven Sanchez

You graduated from AJAC’s two-year Production Technician apprenticeship in June 2022—what was the main reason for joining the apprenticeship when you were in high school?

I joined the apprenticeship in high school because I was interested in working in the manufacturing industry and felt like I learned better in a hands-on environment. AJAC offered that opportunity and fulfilled the credit requirements to graduate high school.

Throughout the duration of your apprenticeship, you learned many different facets of machining—what did you find the most rewarding?

What I found the most rewarding from my apprenticeship was completing parts for research and development projects. These projects were rewarding because it was something brand new and exciting to work on and upon completion, I felt like I was directly contributing to the development of the manufacturing process.

Roughly one-third of AJAC’s Youth Apprentices decide to pursue a college degree after graduating—what made a college degree the most enticing for you?

A college degree was enticing to me because I personally felt like I was not done with my education and could still learn. The path to higher education for me was pursuing a college degree.

What drew you into the engineering field?

My experience as a machinist led me to be a part of the manufacturing industry where I was able to do collaborative work with programmers and engineers. Seeing what these roles did on a daily basis and how they affected the manufacturing process inspired me to pursue a career in engineering.

How will your time in the apprenticeship help you become a better engineer?

My time as an apprentice will help me become a better engineer because I will be able to consider situations in design, work instruction and layout from both an engineer and operator/machinist viewpoint. This will lead to considering more factors and complications that an engineer without that experience would not have.

Where are you currently working and what is your role?

I am currently on the job hunt to begin my career.

How can future graduates build off their apprenticeship to grow their career?

Future graduates can build off their apprenticeship by making their experience clear on applications and resumes, not a lot of hiring managers are aware that a Certified Production Technician license takes 2,000 hours to complete. Making this clear to others will allow them to see that you are dedicated and can complete goals.

Is there anything you would like to mention about “life after apprenticeship” that I did not ask you about?

Be sure to advertise the experience that you had as a part of AJAC. The program is still growing and not everyone knows what it is. I have had interviews and discussions with companies that know all about it and some that are not aware of the program. Making it clear what the program is and the experience that you have gained from it will make you a more enticing candidate and also grow awareness for the AJAC program.


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