“You Never Know What You’re Capable Of Doing” … Oelwein Mother Begins Manufacturing Career
February 9, 2017
OELWEIN—When U.S. Army recruiters visited Deb Huber’s high school decades ago to conduct skills and interest assessments of her high school senior class, the military determined that she showed a promising future in the service – as a mechanic.
“After I completed the aptitude test in school, the recruiters wanted to make me into a U.S. Army jeep mechanic,” Huber recalled, laughing. “I told my father and he said, ‘So, they’re going to make you a grease monkey?’ Although I have always enjoyed fixing things and that type of work, I did not want to be called a ‘grease monkey.’
Now employed at Transco Railway Products in Oelwein since January 2016, Huber currently works in the new north paint building. In a typical day, she helps prep four to five, 20- to 40-ton railcars for painting, both interior and exterior. When she began working at Transco, she worked in freight wash where she learned how to remove and clean the piping and bottom hatches, inside and outside, using impact tools, industrial air compressors and power washers.
It’s all in a day’s work for the married mother of three children who lives on the south end of Oelwein. Huber was a stay-at-home parent for nearly 30 years and had previously worked in data entry for a small hospital in Florida. Huber’s introduction to Transco in 2015 arrived as a happy accident that even surprises herself, she said.
After her husband Barry lost his job, he signed up to attend a Railcar Technician Certificate Program orientation offered through Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC). Deb Huber and their son decided to accompany Barry to the session and she ended up signing up as a participant. Although her husband secured a different full-time job between the orientation and the start of the NICC training sessions, Deb Huber’s interest in the advanced manufacturing position grew immediately. She enrolled in the program.
She completed and graduated from the Railcar Technician – Painting Pathway track from NICC and was hired by Transco upon certification.
“I love working with my co-workers at Transco and have had several co-workers that have been very supportive and helpful whenever I have had a question. They have helped me learn what I needed to know,” Huber said. “I really love what I do. If a woman may not be sure that she could or should work in the manufacturing field, I say: If you say ‘no,’ you will never know what you’re capable of doing. You don’t know until you’ve tried. Take a chance!”
Huber’s can-do attitude, ability and enthusiasm for learning were apparent as soon as the Railcar Technician career pathway certificate training began, according to Teresa Laughead, a career coach at the college.
“Debbie is thankful for NICC giving her the chance to be part of the certificate program, which was life-changing for her. She enjoyed the orientation session and was intrigued by the tour of Transco. That same night she decided to take the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) and earned a Silver, so she applied for work at the company,” Laughead said. “She has worked in freight wash, has prepped tank and hopper cars for paint and also has the opportunity to do industrial spray painting on railcars and decaling. She loves the opportunity to learn new skills.”
A collaborate effort in 2015 between the Transco Railway Products, NICC and the City of Oelwein developed customized certification training for new employees to meet ongoing hiring needs. Transco and the college developed a 74- to 86-hour Railcar Technician Certificate Program and in the program, prospective employees may enter one of two tracks, the Railcar Mechanical Technician or Railcar Paint Technician Pathway.
For more information about the Railcar Technician Certificate Program or other short-term training that leads into employment, contact Kyra Bellrichard, NICC Business and Community Solutions program manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (563) 562-3263, ext. 380.