Student story: A new lease on life

By Polk State Newsroom

The Metallica Scholars Program has given one man a chance to reinvent himself

Andy Johnson owned a small video production company when the pandemic forced him to close his business and “find a way to reinvent myself.”

Enrolling in Polk State College’s Metallica Scholars Program provided him with the opportunity to receive valuable computer numeric control machining training for free in just eight weeks, putting him on a fast track to a high-wage, rewarding career.

“With the loss of my business and other personal devastation in my life, I wanted to reinvent myself in an industry where I would be necessary, where there is a very strong demand, and where unemployment would be a thing of the past,” Johnson said. “This program has been a big deal. I get emotional when I think about how this program has given me a new lease on life.”

Florida’s Polk State is one school from a competitive field of colleges across the country to receive a total of $150,000 in grants from Metallica’s All Within My Hands Foundation in partnership with the American Association of Community Colleges to provide workforce training at no cost to students.

Polk State Metallica Scholars complete the college’s computer numeric control (CNC) machining mrogram without the cost of tuition or materials and are also provided the funds to take exams for six National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) certifications that qualify individuals for high-wage jobs that are in demand locally and beyond.

“My experience in the Metallica Scholars Program has been eye-opening,” Johnson said. “I have learned a lot about the machines, measuring materials, and about myself. As an individual, I have grown tremendously from the beginning of this class until now.”

“This program has been a big deal. I get emotional when I think about how this program has given me a new lease on life.”

He explained how the program has given him a positive outlook on life in addition to the technical skills he has gained.

“As a small business owner, you are promised a lot of things; that if you work hard, your business will grow and blossom. I did not find that to be my experience,” he said. “Now I have been given a new chance to start over and pursue a career that has always been a side passion of mine.”

While Johnson started the program with some knowledge of machining through working at home and watching YouTube videos, he explained that the quality of Polk State’s instructors and the foundation the program provides allow individuals from all skill levels to succeed.

“Mr. Gibbs is the exact type of instructor you want,” Johnson said. “He leads you to the answers rather than hand feeding you what you are trying to get out of him. It is an incredible environment for learning and growth. I can’t imagine wanting anything more out of a program.”

He feels confident with the knowledge and skills he has acquired at Polk State.

“I don’t know where this is going to take me, but I plan for it to take me into higher responsibility and higher pay,” Johnson said.

Machinists are in high demand, with wages starting between $18 and $30 an hour and job growth projected at 5.9% in Polk County and 17% nationwide.

“If I had the chance to tell Metallica thank you, it wouldn’t be enough,” Johnson said. “It is changing my life…, and I would encourage anyone who needs a second start in life to consider doing this.”

This story was originally posted here.

Polk State Newsroom

provides coverage of Polk State College in Winter Haven, Florida.