By Linda Schmid
Matt Benchek was a very good student, the kind of student teachers like and guidance counselors encourage to apply to college to work for a bright future. One of the classes he took was bio-tech and he did incredibly well.
In school Benchek was already a worker. He got As and Bs in his classes, participated on the golf team, and worked in maintenance at a plastics plant.
When he graduated, he knew he didn’t want to continue there but he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. His bio-tech teacher had ideas though; he gave Benchek’s name to Larry Hyer, of Hyer Electric. Benchek went in to check it out and he liked what he saw.
That decided it. Benchek enrolled in the local technical college and began working towards an Associate’s Degree. His mom followed Mike Rowe on Facebook and encouraged him to apply for a mikeroweWORKS Foundation scholarship.
He says applying was pretty simple; his mom and his boss wrote him letters of recommendation and he wrote a short paper about what he wanted to do. He agreed wholeheartedly with the SWEAT pledge.
Benchek said, “Working isn’t easy. Making ends meet isn’t easy. But in the working world you get what you put into it. Those are some great guidelines to live by.”
It was awesome when he won, Benchek said. He received money to put toward his education that he doesn’t have to pay back. No 30-year debt for him!
Technical school was great help; he learned a lot and his work builds upon it. Electrical technology is a deep and diverse subject, Benchek said. He learned about all of the different things you can do with electricity, but he says, once you wrap your head around the concepts, it can be simple.
On the Job as an Electrician
As an electrician, Benchek works on lots of home generators and wires homes, community buildings, and agricultural buildings. What he likes about his job is that there is no typical day.
“It’s always different from day to day. I could be installing a generator, putting in lights for a farmer, fixing storm damage, or wiring a new house.
Sometimes I have to go in early or work late, but I enjoy working with my hands, and I like the principles behind electricity, I enjoy troubleshooting, and I like helping people. I like the smile I get when their problem is solved,” Benchek said.
While Benchek works hard, he plays hard as well, flyfishing, hiking, biking; he likes any outdoor activity. He has some exciting plans for next year, too. He plans to get married.
Recruiting Young People
Benchek believes the labor problem is two-fold: a lack of ambition on the part of many people and the push to send all youth to traditional 4-year colleges.
Benchek believes that the schools could also tout the benefits of going into the trades so that everybody doesn’t think they have to be a lawyer, a doctor, or a psychiatrist. Principals, teachers, and guidance counselors could ensure that kids are aware of all their choices.
“Kids can go right into a trade or into a 2-year program, pick up scholarships, and start making a decent paycheck. Kids don’t always know that. There’s always someone out there willing to give you a shot, and to teach you,” he added.
“It might be harder work than sitting behind a desk, and you might get your hands dirty, but if you put your nose to the grindstone you can make more money and it’s way more gratifying,” Benchek said. RB