How work affects ECC students

Late+into+his+shift%2C+first-year+student+Fausto+Gallardo+is+seen+programming+his+machine+at+the+KNAACK+manufacturing+plant+in+Crystal+Lake%2C+Illinois.++
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How work affects ECC students

Late into his shift, first-year student Fausto Gallardo is seen programming his machine at the KNAACK manufacturing plant in Crystal Lake, Illinois.

Late into his shift, first-year student Fausto Gallardo is seen programming his machine at the KNAACK manufacturing plant in Crystal Lake, Illinois.

Courtesy of Fausto Gallardo

Late into his shift, first-year student Fausto Gallardo is seen programming his machine at the KNAACK manufacturing plant in Crystal Lake, Illinois.

Courtesy of Fausto Gallardo

Courtesy of Fausto Gallardo

Late into his shift, first-year student Fausto Gallardo is seen programming his machine at the KNAACK manufacturing plant in Crystal Lake, Illinois.

Arturo Chuatz, Staff Writer

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Being a commuter college, it comes as no surprise that a large part of the students at Elgin Community College have jobs outside of school. Some work part-time and use these jobs as a means to pay for their classes, and some tackle on full-time jobs because the expenses they have above their head is just too large. Nonetheless, many of these working students, regardless of their trade, claim that the lessons learned in the workforce have affected their view on their education.  

For the past two years, Fausto Gallardo, a first-year student majoring in accounting, has set off to work at 9 p.m. to begin his 12-hour shift at KNAACK LLC, a manufacturing company in Crystal Lake, Illinois that focuses on the production of commercial-grade storage boxes. Being the first in his family to pursue a college education, he knew that balancing such a physically draining job and demanding school schedule would be tough. Yet, the skills he has picked up along the way are what have allowed him to persist.

Gallardo, who started as a machine operator and quickly moved up the to ranks to become a machine programmer, credits this rise in responsibility to his ability to adapt fast in an environment that requires millimeter-like precision and critical reasoning.

“There’s a lot of math involved,” Gallardo said. “You have to look at a 3D print, see what dimensions you have to bend using a machine and come as accurate as you can. That means that if [the customer] wants a certain part to be 19 inches long, we can’t have it be longer or shorter than by .06 of an inch. We make 30,000 parts a day and all of them are different.”

Gallardo believes that working in such a rigidly strict environment with regards to the preciseness and quality of their output has allowed him to become a more analytical person.

“I’ve always been the type of person to analyze things,” Gallardo said. “However, working there has kind of sharpened that skill.”

Although possessing a well-paying job, particularly when compared to the types of salaries that other college students bring home, Gallardo acknowledges the one very obvious drawback about his work: the hours.

“Working here, since most of my shifts have been 12-hour shifts, I’ve started to see the value of going to school and the importance of moving up,” Gallardo said. “I like my paychecks when I do 12 hours, but it’s true what everyone says: You keep working 60 hours, and eventually, your body will catch up.”

Gino Petrone, a first-year student majoring in engineering, sees his job as a constant push to keep focus.

“I work at Lifetime Fitness as a lifeguard, and most of my time is spent scanning the pool making sure that people are safe,” Petrone said. “It’s tiring because, for the most part, you’re doing nothing.”

Despite the job’s monotony, Petrone knows of the intrinsic value that a lifeguard brings to the people around him and how accidents can occur at the most random times.

“It’s true what people say that danger can happen at any time so you must always have an eye and be focused on the pool,” Petrone said.

Above all, Petrone feels that learning how to focus at work, especially during long stretches of time, has transitioned itself on to his school work.

“I used to be the guy that could never concentrate for too long,” Petrone said. “[At work,] I developed patterns where I would focus on certain parts of the pool, and then move on.”

“In school, I now just focus on my work, even if I find the subject boring,” Petrone said.

Students like Luis Gomez, who was enrolled in ECC’s criminal justice program, believes his unique experiences have also fostered new lessons and skills.

Gomez, who finished his last set of classes last semester and aspires to have a career as a law enforcement agent, currently works as a range counter employee at GAT Guns in East Dundee, Illinois.

“As a range counter employee, I am responsible for introducing new shooters to how to handle a firearm, how to properly restore a firearm and ultimately, answering any questions they may have,” Gomez said.

When asked what newly learned skill had resonated with him the most, Gomez responded by saying that just knowing how to act in dire situations had particularly stuck with him

“I’ve learned how to clear a building in an active shooter situation and how to properly use your firearm in a defensive situation,” Gomez said.

Gomez believes that the recent surge in shootings has prompted this type of training.

“Unfortunately, in today’s society there are too many shootings and too many people just don’t know what to do,” Gomez said.