July 17, 2019
For someone who dropped out of high school and worked fast food jobs for two years afterward, Dylan Shaver has carved a career path for himself that a decade ago he probably could not envision.
This summer, he found himself representing his company, Sandvik Coromant, as he led a tour of Alamance-Burlington Schools teachers who were participating in the MechTech Institute through Alamance Community College. It’s a program sponsored by the ACC Foundation to immerse high school educators in mechatronics in an effort for them to promote ACC’s high-tech curriculum to their students.
Not only that, but Dylan has moved into a leadership role as mentor to Career Accelerator Program (CAP) high school apprentices who are earning valuable work experience and college credentials while at Sandvik Coromant.
“I relate to them because I’ve been in their shoes,” says Dylan. “I envy them. I wish CAP existed when I was their age because maybe I wouldn’t have hated school and dropped out.”
Indeed, the man who became a high achiever at Alamance Community College and now fulfills leadership roles through his employer was a high school dropout because, in his words, “I wasn’t a pencil pusher. I wasn’t a bad kid, I just didn’t apply myself.”
He’s applying himself now and he wants others to know anything is possible even when the outlook seems bleak.
Dylan Shaver left high school at age 17 but had no plans to remain idle. The following week he got his driver’s license, turned up at Alamance Community College to take a placement test, and quickly earned his GED. But he wasn’t interested then in continuing at the college.
Unfortunately, his excitement to be out in the work world fell flat. His mother moved back home to Florida, and Dylan began two years of working at fast food restaurants. “That wasn’t for me, I wanted more out of life,” he says.
A skilled handyman, Dylan was hired next at Locust Grove Cabinets in Burlington where he worked for the next six years. He did everything there from shop foreman to quality control to making deliveries up and down the East coast. When the shop sold out during the 2009 economic downturn to a Virginia company, Blackstone Cabinetry, Dylan found himself at loose ends once again.
Then came a turning point. After he was laid off from the cabinet shop due to the economic downturn, Dylan’s girlfriend at the time asked him a point-blank question: “When are you ever going to live up to your full potential?” At first taken aback by the question’s bluntness, Dylan said it really made him take a long, hard look at his life goals.
In 2014, Dylan made a business connection and was hired as a contract worker and placed at Sandvik Coromant in Mebane in its maintenance department. “I learned quickly, and didn’t need a lot of handholding in my work,” he says.
Sandvik Cormorant, with an Alamance County location in Mebane, is a worldwide manufacturer that supplies cutting tools and services to the metal cutting industry
The company’s Russell Ross saw Dylan’s potential, and told him he should study in ACC’s Industrial Systems (IS) program. Consequently, Dylan started IS night classes at Alamance Community College while working fulltime at Sandvik Coromant. Because Dylan couldn’t afford to study fulltime, he took a minimum of classes at night for two semesters. Then he added summer term classes.
After some soul-searching, Dylan made the decision to leave Sandvik because his work schedule did not fit well with his desire to study fulltime and earn his degree.
Hired at another industrial company as a second shift machine operator, Dylan worked all afternoon, headed home to study, and took morning classes at ACC. But Dylan missed Sandvik. He was happy when Lynn Stout, his former contracting employer, offered him a position back at the company, working first shift during the summer after he completed his summer classes.
After a few weeks back at Sandvik, this time events fell into place for Dylan: He was offered a fulltime position working third shift. He was now both, a fulltime maintenance technician at Sandvik Coromant and a fulltime student at ACC. “I was motivated,” he says.
Dylan’s new schedule consisted of getting off work at 7:30 a.m., stopping by Biscuitville for a quick breakfast, and on to his first class at ACC by 8 a.m. He did this for the next two years, a college degree as his goal.
Dylan’s schooling was helped with scholarships from the ACC Foundation., including one from Sandvik Coromant. He made the President’s Honors List. Although his start as a part-time student had slowed his academic pursuit down, after four years he completed his Associate in Applied Science in Industrial Systems degree in 2014.
“The whole time I was at ACC, I was able to apply what I learned each week to my job at Sandvik,” he says. “I was also the guy who often went to my industrial instructor’s office at ACC after hours to ask questions. That made a difference for me.”
Today Dylan is the Lead Maintenance Technician at Sandvik and currently working first shift. Recently he became attached to Sandvik’s ME2 (Motivated Engaged Employee), a program that has employees helping to make the local community better. He supported the Pink Ribbon Fund event, by volunteering to drive a golf cart to provide transportation to the Event Center.
“We in the ME2 program come up with ideas to give back to our employees and the community,” Dylan says. “We are going to adopt a highway across from Sandvik to clean it up. I just want to give back to people who have given to me.”
During his stint this summer assisting with ACC’s MechTech Institute, he found himself instructing the ABSS high school teachers. “I tell the teachers to not opinionate on the kid taking apart his mechanical pen and pencil at his desk. You never know what he’s thinking about and learning by doing that. That kid was me. It doesn’t mean he won’t excel.”
Dylan can now see where his future lies. Not only as a technician, but as a leader for a new generation coming out of high school. That’s why he enjoys mentoring the Career Accelerator Program apprentices.
“I encourage the idea of being challenged, getting out of your comfort zone,” he says. “ACC gave me that opportunity to grow. You only stop growing if you choose to stop growing. Life and career are constant learning opportunities.”