After just four weeks of training, Melissa Hirsch is poised to make a fresh start. Hirsch completed a four-week welding course that was part of a MN-DEED Pathways to Prosperity (P2P) grant sponsored by Pine Technical & Community College - Employment and Training Center. She's now employed full-time as a welder at Premier Pontoon, earning a great wage and making a better life for her family.
“I never thought after a four-week class I would be able to get a job and have the pay start as high as it did,” Hirsch said.
As a single mom recovering from addiction, Hirsch knew she needed to create a new opportunity for herself and her son, but didn't want to be in school for great length of time.
“I was in childcare, and started doing some tree service and construction and realized I liked hard labor kind of work,” Hirsch, currently a Forest Lake resident, said.
Not afraid to work with her hands, Hirsch began looking for options, and heard about the four-week welding program at PTCC. Although the length of the program and promise of a high wage made it an attractive option, Hirsch was apprehensive.
"I had no prior knowledge of welding," Hirsch admits. "I didn't know the tools or the terminology, but the instructor made me feel comfortable."
"I think it helped that the instructor was a female," Hirsch continued. "When I first started, I had self-doubt. I was intimidated by blue printing reading and not having knowledge of tools. She started from the beginning to explain things, and I didn’t have to feel awkward asking questions."
Hirsch also found support with the Career Navigator, Kris Hanson.
"The support of Kris and everyone there – I knew they were all rooting for me. Kris went above and beyond to give resources. Not just career, but also housing assistance as well," she said.
“Melissa has grown since I first began working with her,” Hanson said. “Learning a trade, landing a great job—these things are more than just a paycheck to women like Melissa. Her confidence has grown. She’s proven she’s not afraid of hard work, and she has found success.”
Hirsch did have to work hard to find a job, and some of the companies she contacted didn't call. But Hirsch didn't give up. She's now working at Premier Pontoon, earning a great wage that allows for financial stability.
"Hard work always shows," Hirsch said. "I never thought I would be at this point, be this successful. I now have successful career and can care for my son."