Lifelong Learning Starts at Any Age

Lifelong Learning Starts at Any Age

| By: Britten, Casey
At 64 years young, Bob Slavik turned a layoff into a new career. For many mid- to late-career workers, losing a job can be debilitating. Slavik, however, looked at his challenging situation differently.

When this 64-year-old machinist was laid off, he saw it as an opportunity to explore a new career. So he enrolled in Fox Valley Technical College’s Outdoor Power Equipment Technician program. After earning a technical diploma from that program, he enrolled in the Power Sports Technology certificate program, designed for individuals who want to learn how to repair ATVs, snowmobiles, motorcycles, and marine and personal watercraft.

“I’ve always maintained my own vehicles,” Slavik says. “I just decided it was time to learn how to do it the right way and maybe help others too.”

Returning to school after so many years took a little getting used to, he admits. “I have to confess,” Slavik laughs. “My wife helped me write my first paper using the computer. Getting used to the computer was the hardest part for me! I definitely liked the lab settings the best because you could tear something apart and then fix it.”

Slavik quickly adapted to the classroom setting. “As a former machinist, Bob was very organized,” says Jerry Fischer, Slavik’s Outdoor Power Equipment instructor.

Slavik was soon up-to-speed and his superior fix-it capabilities came through loud and clear in state and national competitions. He took home first place in marine service technology at the state level and placed third in a national competition in Kansas City. Both events were part of the annual SkillsUSA competitions to recognize outstanding students across the nation who possess exceptional advanced technical skills.

After completing the program in December, Slavik plans to continue to work as an independent mechanic. “Word has spread and business is pretty good,” he says. There’s always somebody who needs something fixed. All my life I have worked for someone, and now I am my own boss. I owe that success to my instructors.”

Slavik also predicts that he’ll soon be back on campus after he’s finished the program. “We have this rocking chair that my wife likes,” he says. ”I’ve refinished it, and now I want to learn how to reupholster it!”