Sandburg’s CNC Programs ‘Absolutely Life-Changing’ for New Graduate Barkdoll

  Aaron Frey
  Wednesday, May 15, 2019 4:53 PM
  Campus News

Galesburg, IL

Jesse Barkdoll has a simple way to describe his last two years of working a full-time job during the day and attending Carl Sandburg College in the evening.

“I would say exhausting,” the 24-year-old from Galesburg said. “I definitely missed a lot of sleep.”

But he said the payoff will be worth it as he graduates from Sandburg on Thursday night with an advanced certificate in computer numeric control (CNC) programming.

Barkdoll had been working as an electrical apprentice when he got laid off in 2017. He came across Sandburg recruiter Anthony Law, who told Barkdoll about some of the College’s career and technical programs. Sandburg’s pair of CNC programs caught Barkdoll’s eye.

“I noticed that not only is it hands-on, but there’s also a lot of actual thought in there as well,” Barkdoll said. “You’re not just a guy who hits a button or is on an assembly line. There was a lot of job growth and positions available as far as machining goes, but there weren’t a lot of people taking it. It had a lot of opportunity.”

The CNC operator certificate teaches students to run specialized, computer-programmed machinery that drills, cuts and shapes materials from aluminum and steel to alloys and plastics. Students can then earn the CNC programmer advanced certificate in which they learn to program the machine and can design the objects it creates.

Around the same time Barkdoll spoke with Law, he heard about a CNC operator job from Chris Whitehead of Pegasus Manufacturing, a machining company in Galesburg that partners with Sandburg to offer internships for students in the CNC program. Starting in the 2017 fall semester, Barkdoll worked at Pegasus from 7 a.m.-3:30 p.m., then, after a break for a couple hours, took classes in the evening at Sandburg until 10:30 p.m.

“It just so happened that I’m working and doing the same thing I’m trying to go to school for, and it kind of took off from there,” Barkdoll said. “I’m glad that I did work as much as I did because everything I did there translated into the classroom. It made it easier for me to excel, and they really complemented each other.”

Barkdoll earned his CNC operator certificate last spring and came back this year to finish the CNC programmer portion. He also felt he owed it to the Workforce Offices of Western Illinois, which had given him a scholarship through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to pay for his tuition, books, mileage and even a stipend for personal expenses.

“If it wasn’t for them, I never would’ve even been able to go to school,” Barkdoll said. “It might sound old fashioned, but I more or less gave them my word that I was going to see it through to the very end. And as a personal thing for me, the money and advancement as a programmer is huge. It’s the difference between being a laborer and maybe being a foreman.”

It may have resulted in a lot of long days and nights, but Barkdoll said investing that time and energy in himself has been well worth it.

“Sandburg, to me, and the CNC program itself has been absolutely life-changing,” Barkdoll said. “I’m not trying to lay that on thick, but before I started here I’d been laid off, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was at a place where financially and career-wise, I didn’t know where I was going. Within the last six months, more doors have opened for me. It’s been something that has been absolutely crucial to my personal success. While it’s only been two years, I know these two years are going to follow me for the rest of my life.”

Jesse Barkdoll

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Aaron Frey