ACE Program Success Stories
September 16, 2022 – “I was born and raised on the west side of Chicago. When I was a teenager, I didn’t do the best stuff, I didn’t make the best choices. It looked like I was going to be another statistic like people say.” That’s how the story for Adonis Summerville begins, but it’s certainly not how it ends. Though his chapters are still being written, the turning point for Adonis was learning how to machine.
Homelessness and jail time were his reality until 11 years ago when he became a trainee with the Jane Addams Resource Corporation (JARC). “I got the chance to change all that,” says Adonis. “I found a route that actually helped me excel, helped me shine.” JARC is a workforce development program in Chicago that supports healthy communities and economies by teaching low-income adults and workers the skills they need to earn a living wage. They offer NIMS certificates in welding, mechanical assembly, and Computer Numerical Control (CNC) operation at no cost. Their goal for clients is simple: “Don’t just get a job. Get a career.” Since 1985, they’ve been accomplishing that goal by going beyond basic skills training. Mentors, like Adonis, connect job seekers with good jobs in the manufacturing sector and foster the life skills that create a path out of poverty.
“When you’re coming through my class, you’re not just looking for work, you’re looking to change your life,” shares Adonis, who’s been teaching CNC classes for six years. Most of his students are unemployed, underemployed, or returning citizens from incarceration, and the majority are African American males like himself. “Through JARC, I did a complete 180 of my life. I felt it was my duty to come back and help others like I was helped.”
In December 2012, JARC helped Adonis secure a job at John Crane, Inc., a global leader focused on flow control solutions for increased efficiency, emissions reductions, and energy transformation. “I never knew how much stuff we use daily actually came off a CNC machine, so I thought it was cool that we had an essential part in everyday life,” says Adonis. “Once I saw it in action, I knew that’s what I was meant to do.”
Though he loved the work, his early days were a struggle. Without a car, he spent four hours commuting each way for a job that paid $10 an hour. Within three years, he could afford a car, found a closer job, and earned promotions that quadrupled his pay. Through his journey, Adonis knows how the right skills can change lives in his community. He goes beyond training button pushers to develop problem solvers. “I want them to be knowledgeable enough about the machines that they can become trouble shooters. That’s where they become valuable and earn job security, advancement, and higher pay.”
As someone who’s spent thousands of hours running and teaching machining, Adonis wasn’t sure what he’d learn at the CNC bootcamp for America’s Cutting Edge (ACE) held at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UT) this summer. He came as an instructor hoping to fold some of the curriculum into his program but jumped at the chance to experience it as a student. “When you’re a trainer, you’re expected to observe,” he says, “but it’s always best to get hands on. I felt I could explain and teach it better if I went through it first.”
Under the guidance of Dr. Tony Schmitz, a UT mechanical engineering professor and joint faculty member at Oak Ridge National Laboratory who developed ACE, Adonis spent five days machining four components of an air engine. He saw what machine tools were required and the software used to design each part. Adonis also learned how advances in analyzing machine dynamics are saving companies time, money, and materials. “This is one of the most unique programs I’ve come across in my field,” adds Adonis.
THREE, TWO, ONE, GO!
The final day of the bootcamp, Adonis is laser focused on winning a competition where participants race to assemble the air piston they’ve each machined. The prize at stake: a drone. Adonis has decided this trophy isn’t for him; it’s for his son. In a head-to-head, sports-style bracket, he and nine other machinists are ready for battle. Quickly maneuvering tiny nuts and bolts demands fine dexterity and eagle eyesight. Every second matters. Up until now, they’ve been all smiles and small talk. Now it’s game on.
In round one, Adonis proves a fierce competitor by completing the assembly in under a minute. Round two, his time is closer to his opponent, but he still emerges triumphant. For the semifinals, Adonis is paired against his now buddy Nathan Kenner, a mechatronics teacher at West High School in Knoxville. No amount of smack talk can throw Adonis off his game. The finals come down to Adonis and Christopher Lang, a recent UT engineering graduate who’s landed a job at General Motors. Years spent on a favorite hobby – assembling remote controlled cars – gives Christopher the advantage, but Adonis is determined.
“Hands off the table…three, two, one, go!” and they’re off. The crowd is secretly pulling for Adonis, the underdog. Maybe Christopher will make a mistake. Maybe he’ll drop a mini-Allen wrench. “Looking good, Adonis. Let’s go, let’s go!” cheers the crowd…. Though it’s close, Christopher proves the victor. But after a handshake, Christopher hands Adonis the drone for his son. What a good sport!
Weeks later, Adonis is back home, brainstorming how he’s going to spread that fun and enthusiasm for machining to his students in Chicago, Baltimore, and Providence, Rhode Island. Since his students are self-paced and at different stages of training at any given time, pulling off the same dynamics of ACE has its challenges. Adonis is looking at how he could use 3D printing to let students design and make the polymer part of the air piston. He’s also decided to teach ACE at the end of their other classes, so that they can focus on programming with Fusion 360. Since learning Fusion 360 at ACE, Adonis has found the software intuitive and a marketable skill that many businesses are seeking.
One such company, Rook and the Raven Publishing, is upstairs from JARC and specializes in custom notebooks for D&D enthusiasts, yes, Dungeons and Dragons. They’re looking for CNC programmers who can use Fusion 360 to design hand-crafted diaries and planners for their customers. They are one of the 30,000 businesses across America seeking skills that are in high demand but short supply. Adonis is currently working with seven trainees who could be hired there soon. That is, if another manufacturer doesn’t snatch them up first. His latest graduate has five job offers.
IACMI is proud to manage the ACE program and looks forward to seeing what’s next for Adonis and his students. Are you ready to see what all the excitement is about? Start your success today!
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