“It wasn’t easy, but I applied myself because I believed ... there is no limit to education, or to how far it can take you.”
Altheha DrePaul, M-Powered graduate

Manufacturing today is a lot different than in the past. Men and women work in professional and clean manufacturing environments with high tech equipment and high paying jobs. Meet some of our past graduates, and hear what they have to say about a career in manufacturing.

 Meet some of our M-Powered graduates, and find out how M-Powered led them to obtain successful careers in manufacturing

JenV. M-Powered Graduate

Like many students enrolled in M-Powered, Jen V. had no previous experience in manufacturing when she entered the M-Powered program. In fact, her most recent job experience prior to enrolling in the program, was being employed as a Barista at a coffee shop.

"I had no previous experience in manufacturing so the training really allowed me to present myself to prospective employers as a capable and prepared individual. M-powered also let me demonstrate my abilities and commitment to prospective employers by allowing them access to such information as aptitude test scores, and attendance records." Jen V.

“Since completing the program, my daily activities include, Machine set ups, writing programs, working on proto type parts and trouble shooting. Every day is something different. I leave work with a sense of accomplishment.” Jen V.


Meet Altheha D.

Altheha DrePaul Article

Who’s Who: Altheha DrePaul

Copyright © 2013 Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association.



Altheha D., M-Powered Graduate

She is a native of Guyana, in South America. She immigrated to the United States in 2002. Just 2 years later this mother of two young children found herself unemployed with very limited job prospects. Today, she is a key account manager working for E.J. Ajax & Sons in Fridley, Minn.

Altheha DrePaul tells a story few can rival. She does so in a lovely, lilting accent that takes me to a beach in the Caribbean. How she got from there to here is pure testimony—to her character, her commitment, her perseverance, her willingness to dream big.

In early 2004, DrePaul was unemployed with few prospects. On a lark, she attended an informational meeting about the M-Powered program at Hennepin Technical College in Brooklyn Park, Minn. A friend suggested they go together. “It was curiosity that took me there,” said DrePaul, “and opportunity that kept me. I liked the idea of making quality products. While sitting at that first meeting I was taken back to my childhood, and I was reminded of a bicycle my parents had bought me. It was from China, and so poorly made. You see, spokes were missing, parts were bent. And I remember saying to myself as that child, ‘I would like to do something better than this.’ Today, the idea of making things well still matters to me. At that first meeting, I discovered a drive inside me to know if I could learn such a thing and do it successfully.”

Advancing into Manufacturing
And so launched DrePaul’s 7-year adventure into advanced manufacturing. On that first ambling day of curiosity, she enrolled in M-Powered’s Level 1 program, during which she and 23 other students were introduced to the basics of manufacturing. “When I started, I just knew basic English and some math. I had to learn everything all over again. But our instructor supported us. Students helped one another, and they all encouraged me. It wasn’t easy, but I applied myself because I believed—and still do—that there is no limit to education, or to how far it can take you. No matter your age!”

“Back home, there is a stigma about women working in manufacturing. ‘It is man’s work,’ they would say. Now that I am in this field, I have found that I can be an inspiration to other women. I tell them, ‘I did this; you can, too.’ You need to put your heart, your soul, and your mind into this thing that you love. You must believe in yourself and then you can do great things. That’s what I’ve done. And I’m going to continue sharing that with everyone I meet. You must find something that you love, something you believe in, and go from there. Find that one ladder you want to climb. For me, that was manufacturing.”

An M-Powered Graduate
Said Erick Ajax, co-owner of E. J. Ajax, “Altheha was one of the very first graduates of the M-Powered program. We met her at the Reverse Job Fair and were impressed right away. We asked her, ‘How was your attendance?’ She replied, ‘I have 100 percent attendance of course. I didn’t miss a class.’ Now keep in mind that class ran through the winter, and Altheha rode the bus 2 hours each way for those 6 weeks. Seven years later, still riding the bus every day, her attendance at E.J. Ajax is still 100 percent. I can’t tell you how highly we think of her.”

“We hired Altheha as a machine operator in 2007,” continued Ajax. “She completed Levels 2 and 3 of her M-Powered program and, within that first year, was selected for our 4-year apprenticeship program. This program is registered with the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry and provides transferrable NIMS credentials. She has earned her Class A Journey Workers Card, which represents 8,000 hours of on-the-job training and hundreds of hours of schooling in the MnSCU system. In truth, she is a poster child for this program. She has doubled her entry wage, she is saving for retirement, and she is preparing her own children for their educational future. And now she is mentoring others. She inspires me, too.”

A True Opportunity
“And this isn’t purely altruism,” insisted Ajax. “This is good business. It’s a win-win, an ‘upward spiral’ of benefit, as we like to call it. Today, Altheha is a key account manager, working with our largest customers. She adds value because of her experience on the shop floor.”

“My children sacrificed for me, while I went to school. I can’t tell you how that drives me to work hard enough to deserve that. I tell people every day, ‘I am so blessed. I am so thankful because I can come to work, work in peace, and focus.’ Not everyone has such an opportunity. My children have a future here that they never could have had at home. I became a U.S. citizen in 2012, and look forward to encouraging my children as they choose a career ladder suited to them as I have.”

Meet Miranda J.

On the Job with Miranda Justice
November 5, 2012 — 10:39am
By LAURA FRENCH Special to the Star Tribune
Photo by Tom Witta; Miranda Justice, machinist

Miranda J., M-Powered Graduate

Eighteen months ago, Miranda Justice recalled, "I was unemployed, without a car, living in a rented room in Wisconsin. I had worked in every fast-food place in town. Now, I have a great boyfriend, a nice place to live and a great job." What made the difference was discovering her talent for machining and enrolling in the M-Powered program at Hennepin Technical College, where she got a chance to develop her aptitude and move into an in-demand career in medical device manufacturing.

Justice loves cars -- she has the emblem of her dream brand, Subaru, tattooed on her arm. But after training in automotive technology, she decided it was a better hobby than career. "I love it so much I wouldn't want to do it everyday. You're a parts swapper. You figure it out, bim-bam-boom," she said. Still, her automotive training did confirm her mechanical aptitude. When she saw a "Help Wanted" sign hanging in the window of a Hudson, Wis., machine shop, she made up a resume and went in to fill out an application.

"They were surprised I had a résumé," she said. She was called in for an interview and got the job. Justice went through the two-week training in a week. "It just makes sense; you make the part, you measure it, if the numbers won't work, you fix it." She also discovered she loved the work. "You put a chunk of metal in a machine and it comes out a part," she said. Over the next couple of years, Justice worked a series of jobs at small companies. Some were challenging, some were "grunt work." Most were temporary assignments.

Then she heard about the M-Powered program. "I had the basic skills, but I thought this could give me a step up," she said. She took Level 1 of the program while working a 12-hour weekend shift, which left her free to focus on school during the week. When she signed up for Level 2, which focused on milling operations, she worked an 11-to-7 night shift after attending class from 5 to 9 p.m. Justice was the only woman in her Level 1 class of 22 to opt for machine tool training in Level 2. The other five women in the program went into quality assurance. At the end of Level 2, Justice produced a part and submitted it for evaluation by the National Institute for Metalforming Skills (NIMS). The part had to be 100 percent compliant to pass -- and Justice passed on her first attempt.

"It was everything I'd worked for in one block of metal," she recalled. An M-Powered field trip to the Medical Design and Manufacturing show provided an inside look at medical manufacturing. "I knew this was something I wanted to get into," she said. Why do you like medical device manufacturing? There's no room for error. The greatest tolerance I have in the parts I make is five thousandths of an inch. There's one outside diameter that's so tight, we can't even exert pressure on a micrometer to measure it.

Where do you plan to go from here? I want to be an all-round good machinist. The industry is changing. I want to learn more and move forward. What advice would you give someone who's interested in a manufacturing career? Never let anyone try to change you. Be yourself, work hard and follow your dreams. Plus if you're a machinist, you get away with crazy hair color.

Meet David S.

David S. M-Powered graduate

On the Job with David Schaenzer By LAURA FRENCH Minneapolis Star-Tribune,  May 20, 2013 — 9:45am
Photo TOM WITTA • Star Tribune:

“The opportunities just keep rolling in.”

For David Schaenzer, the invitation to a new career was literally slipped through the bars of his cell. When he read the brochure about M-Powered, a fast-track program in manufacturing, his first thought was simply that it would help pass the time during his two-year sentence. The program was taught by faculty from Hennepin Technical College, to students screened and selected by HIRED, a nonprofit that helps dislocated and underemployed workers.


Although the prison setting limited the types of equipment the students could use, Schaenzer recalled, “It was a pretty good class. I learned good stuff about this field that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise. I got out thinking ‘I’ve got an education in welding, I’ve got an education in punch press. Those are two fundamental building blocks of our country.’ It gave me some drive knowing that I had something going for me.”


Still, he knew he faced an uphill climb. “I was quite aware that making something of yourself once you’ve gone to prison is even harder. The economy collapsed while I was there,” he said.


Schaenzer’s first job after release came through the Re-Entry Services program offered by Goodwill/Easter Seals. “It was something to do — make some money, put something on the résumé,” he said.


A few months after release, he started the second phase of the M-Powered program at Hennepin Technical College. He went to a meeting of the Precision Manufacturing Association at the college and met the vice-president of a local manufacturing company, who offered him a tour. “I loved the place,” he said, but with the recession still underway, there were no jobs available.


He worked as a temp for almost a year before the company finally called, interviewed him, and offered him a job. He’s now halfway through an apprenticeship that will lead to journey worker status as a journeyman machine operator. His employer also wants him to get recertified in welding. “The opportunities just keep rolling in,” he said.


Schaenzer has now been on the job for three years, and his employer says, “He’s got a bright future here. We’re excited to see him grow and participate. There are good things in store if he continues to make the great decisions that he’s been making.”


How hard is it to restart your life after prison?
It’s definitely a decision you have to make. The resources are available in prison and out of prison — more than I would have given credit for. You have to use the resources, and the more you use them the more become available.


What was the prison experience like?
My first rule in prison is that I wasn’t there to make friends. There’s plenty to learn, but a good sum of what you’re going to learn is how to go back to prison. I just figured it would be better not to affiliate myself. If you’re looking for trouble, it’s easy to find. If you’re not, it’s pretty easy to avoid. I got penned up with a really cool lifer who taught me a lot. He’s doing a 40-some-year prison sentence. He taught me quite a bit and made a few introductions, and that was really helpful. Respect gets you a lot, too.


How do people react when they find out you have a prison record?
Reactions haven’t been bad. I don’t typically bring it up unless I feel that it could contribute. I’m not hiding it, I just don’t flaunt it either. It’s just two years that I washed away. It was pretty much a big waste.



Thanks for all of your help and support. I’m sure a job will be there when I’m ready. Thanks to every one for this great program again for giving me a solid start. I wanted to do this for many years but chickened out after getting school info. The m -­powered program changed my life. I am grateful. Thank you.
Mary S., M-Powered Participant


I wanted to give a 'shout out' to all the people involved with the M -­Powered program, along with my past experience, the program gave me the tools needed to transition into a new career, I am currently working at a medical parts/machine shop company in the quality department. The fast -­track M -­Powered program is set up for opportunities in growing employment fields, very good program, thanks again!
Brad E., M­-Powered Participant


Just wanted to get back to you. The Morrissey interview went fantastic, and while I was one of the top two choices, they went with the othe r one solely because he had graduated from Dunwoody a while back and thus more experience. That being said, they still want me and said they would create a new second position just for me once classes are done in December . I rather like this more since now I can focus on classes only for now and not split my time, and it allows more experience for me in preparation for meeting again with Morrissey early this December. Fantastic company and I am excited to work for them in about four weeks or so, provided I maintain a high quality that I have been doing in classes.
A letter from M-Powered student who interviewed at Morrissey, Inc.


Just want to say thank you again for helping me find this job and everything else. Without you helping me, I would have never achieve this much. The reason I'm writing you this letter is to let you know I was Hired 2/4/13 by Ardel Engineering. I only worked as a temp for 2 months and Ardel decided to keep me as one of their employee. So I appreiciate all your help and everything you have done to get me to be successful.
Samson V., M-Powered Graduate


M-Powered Graduation 2012

Last updated by drogalla : 2017-03-09 11:28:39