Chef reskills for advanced manufacturing career with Unison Solutions
Friday, July 26, 2019
The native Dubuquer worked for decades in the culinary arts after earning a Certified Executive Chef credential from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1997.
Making a career change as an adult, especially with years of work experience in one profession, requires courage, persistence and an openness to learning something new.
Jimmy Paradiso successfully changed careers this spring, and dramatically so. The native Dubuquer worked for decades in the culinary arts after earning a Certified Executive Chef credential from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1997.
When he returned to Dubuque and started thinking about a career change, a friend suggested that he give welding a try. Many members of his family are also welders and use welding equipment. First, Jimmy enrolled in the one-year diploma program at Northeast Iowa Community College. Then another friend encouraged him to try the four-month Welding – Career Pathway Certificate program at the College instead.
“This friend persuaded me to talk to career coaches at NICC and earn the Career Pathway Certificate. It’s really designed to ‘get my foot’ in the door somewhere. I loved the program and my instructor. By the time I graduated in April 2019, I had several opportunities and I chose Unison because of what they do to help the environment,” Jimmy said.
The advanced manufacturing Career Pathway Certificate programs are supported by a partnership, Opportunity Dubuque, established between Northeast Iowa Community College, Dubuque Works and Greater Dubuque Development Corporation. Opportunity Dubuque supports community members interested in upskilling or reskilling for a different career. When graduates find local manufacturing employment, Opportunity Dubuque helps to close the skills gap in northeast Iowa. Today, there are more jobs that require middle skills like welding and machining than there are qualified employees to fill the positions.
Jimmy was drawn to Unison Solutions’ manufacturing niche in the reusable energy and biomass industries. “Unison is a great company, and was my first choice for where I wanted to work. Everything we do is backed with positive reinforcement, we’re a team. I love this place,” he expressed.
One lesson learned from his career as a chef continues to inspire him: “You’re only as good as every dish that leaves the kitchen.” Jimmy takes pride in producing quality work, and knows that quality reflects on both him and his employer.
“Two years ago I didn’t have a place to live and was sleeping in my jeep. I went from having almost nothing, to where I am today. In about a month I’m purchasing a house,” Jimmy explained. “Everything has just turned around. People say I’m so positive, they noticed that I’ve come so far. I’ve never been so positive about work before.”
Since 2012, Opportunity Dubuque has trained and employed hundreds of individuals in advanced manufacturing, transportation, healthcare, information technology, culinary, and construction and restoration careers.