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Dylan Durborow is learning his craft as a welder at Steel Fab.

Not everyone chooses the right career the first time. Dylan Durborow is a perfect example. He tried not one, but three careers before finding one that fit him. Importantly he didn’t give up, but used the knowledge of what was and wasn’t successful and why to go in new directions.

A 2018 graduate of Penn Manor he participated in the Career and Technology Center’s (CTC) automotive technology program in his junior year. While interesting and enjoyable he decided to use those skills as a hobby, preferring to work on personal vehicles. First career discarded.

Selecting the CTC’s electromechanical technology program his senior year, he started employment in the field after graduation. Early on he realized the hands-on areas such as hydraulics and pneumatics were appealing, but the computer controlled elements were overwhelming and not something he wanted to do for the rest of his life. Second career discarded.

Durborow circled back to welding, an earlier consideration, and took advantage of CareerLink’s services to help him enroll in the CTC’s 10 week adult basic program.  A June 2019 graduation was followed quickly by employment with Steel Fab Enterprises. The family-owned Lancaster based company has been an industry leader in steel fabrication and erection since 1962 with over 4,000 completed projects in the mid-Atlantic region.

Now he is one of the first participants in the company’s new hands-on mentor program. Operations Manager Chris Gregory details that for the first 90 days employees spend time rotating through the facility in the parts, welding and fabricating departments and receive feedback and evaluation. “This lets them see every aspect of the industry,” he says.

Some may choose, as Durborow has, to enroll in Steel Fab’s new apprenticeship program. Earn to Learn is a state registered apprenticeship program and follows all the guidelines of work, hours, pay and classroom instruction which is provided in-house. The three-year program can accommodate up to ten participants.

The first year focuses on workmanship and basic knowledge of the industry. Year two concentrates on more detailed skills, welding, cutting and fabricating as examples and the third year’s goal is to prepare for certification through a test and shop and field performance which recognizes qualifications and skills.

Part of Steel Fab’s motivation in developing the mentor and apprenticeship programs is the difficulty finding qualified personnel in their industry. Gregory explains, “It’s extremely hard to find somebody who will show up on time every day and who enjoys what they do. If they did that I would teach them everything else they need to know.”

He describes Durborow as an exception who arrives daily with a good attitude eager to learn. One of the reasons Steel Fab was so attractive to Durborow was the company’s readiness to provide instruction. While desirous of a welding job he was ready to accept any position to get his foot in the door and says, “In this field I would willingly do anything. I would like to weld, but that’s why I’m doing the mentor program, to learn all the aspects.”

So far in Durborow’s rotation he has cut and welded parts for the structural steel division and moved onto gathering parts for addition to the main beams. “Some of the parts I grabbed were ones I made,” he says. Next up is working alongside the fitter/welders. He remains in each department for three to four weeks depending on how he performs and how he feels about each area. If it’s not a great fit the company will move him more quickly into another area.

“We don’t want to keep them somewhere if it makes them miserable,” says Gregory. “We want to expose employees to all the areas so we learn what makes them happy. Employees are more efficient and happier when they’re doing what they enjoy.”

After completing the apprenticeship program and gaining some experience his next big step will most likely be into a fitter/welder position and becoming certified. While he could return to CTC for another class he can accomplish the same goal through Steel Fab with on-the-job training and their on-site certified welding inspector who can administer the test whenever they feel Durborow is ready.

He could then move into a job foreman slot, quality control position or management. Durborow knows he wants to weld and does want to move up through the industry. “Once I gain experience and know fully what goes on I would like to supervise others and pass my knowledge on.”

For Durborow the third career’s the right career.