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welding graduate

Alumni Spotlight: Matt Podlaszewski, Welding Technology Graduate

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Matt Podlaszewski graduated from Penn Commercial Business/Technical School in August 2015 from the Welding Technology program. His education here, which he was able to complete in under one year, allowed him to achieve his goal of getting a great job in the trades. Right out of high school, however, Matt originally went to Mercyhurst University to major in Biochemistry. He quickly discovered that it was not the experience he had anticipated. Although he enjoyed the sciences in high school, when he got to college it was quite different. He discovered it was not something he was excited about learning anymore. A career in Biochemistry was no longer something Matt thought he could do for the rest of his life. With this realization, he transferred to his local community college for a year to figure out what exactly he wanted to do. One day Matt’s mother handed him a newspaper. There was an article discussing Penn Commercial Business/Technical School’s re-opening of their learning technology program and it immediately sparked Matt’s interest. He decided to go for a visit, took a tour, and instantly decided this was the place for him.

Soon after starting the welding program, Matt confirmed he had definitely made the right decision. The first month was focused mainly on classroom work. They learned about safety and the basics of welding. After about one month, Matt started being able to work directly in the shop most of the time, with one day each week being in the computer lab. With that time, students were allowed to work on their resumes, look for jobs and read up on the field. Most of the time, however, Matt was able to spend in the shop, getting hands-on experience and learning to weld. Another thing Matt thoroughly enjoyed about Penn Commercial Business/Technical School’s welding curriculum was that the material was laid out for him and he could go at his own pace.. “They didn’t make you do anything, but if you wanted to, you could. At the end of the day it boiled down to you wanting to get better.” In the same regard, if you came for help the instructors would make sure all students understood the material. As Matt continued to explain, “The instructors are really good. It wasn’t forced on you. But, if you didn’t want to do it, you weren’t going to get better.” Matt’s favorite part of the welding program was also the most challenging. “I really enjoyed the kick loading at the end and PIG. It is the hardest of all of the processes. We spent a good bit of time on it. It was a lot of fun, but it was very frustrating. It was pretty rewarding once you figured it out.”

Once Matt graduated from Penn Commercial he obtained a position in a small, family-owned shop where everyone was very personable. Now, however, he is transitioning into a new role with United Steelworkers. Matt is incredibly excited about this new opportunity which offers fantastic benefits and the opportunity to grow and make more money. Matt remains incredibly grateful for the experience he had at his previous job. “I learned so much from the small shop. I had to do a little bit of everything. At first I started welding and then at the end of my time there I was doing a whole bunch of other stuff also.” His first positon laid the groundwork for his career in welding, but working in the steel workers union will definitely be a different experience. As Matt explained, “My last job was about twenty to twenty-five workers in the shop and now I am going to a building over one million square feet.” Overall, Matt says the best thing about his career is that there is always something new to learn and new problems to solve. With a great sense of humor, he explains it in a way we can all understand, “You think you’re the man, you think you have it all figured out and then you get stumped. Then you think oh, I am not the man.” In other words, there is a great deal of problem solving and your days will usually not be the same. It keeps you humble and your work exciting. You can read here to learn about salaries and the extensive career opportunities available for welders.

Overall, Matt definitely feels that Penn Commercial Business/Technical School’s welding program prepared him to be as successful as he is. “The instructors that I had were very helpful. I couldn’t have asked for better instructors. The curriculum is great, too. But, at the end of the day, it was the instructors that helped me succeed in this trade. I still go back to them sometimes to ask questions or just have a good conversation.”

Matt is naturally a motivated, hard-working person,. Right after he graduated he started looking for positions on his own. He obtained a great position, is starting a new job very soon and only hopes to continue growing. His goal is to keep climbing the ladder and working as hard as he possibly can. “I was pretty nervous about what my future was going to be like before Penn Commercial. I didn’t really know what I was going to do. Now I am happy with what I am doing and I can do this for the rest of my life and make a good living.”

Matt’s hard work does not end there. He also teaches lacrosse to high school boys. When Matt was in his exploratory phase at his community college, not knowing what he was going to do, they needed help for the team, so he volunteered to coach. The Assistant Varsity Coach eventually offered Matt a paid position. Matt had played lacrosse growing up so it is something he is passionate about and skilled at. He enjoys being able to give back and teach other kids the fundamentals of the game. They went to the championship game two years ago, which was very exciting. “I think it’s a good experience for me to be able to be a role model and help kids out.” Matt is continually inspiring and motivating his lacrosse team and he has words of wisdom for Penn Commercial Business/Technical students, as well. “You need to apply yourself as much as you can to make the most of it. I know it is cliché, but at the end of the day, that’s what’s going to make you better.”