FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 11/4/2019
(By Lisa Garrett)
PENDLETON --- As Industrial Training Coordinator for Clemson University’s Center for Workforce Development, John Porter begins each training class in local industries with a shout out to lifelong learning.
“In today’s culture, it’s not a choice, it’s a necessity,” said Porter, who worked as a mechanical engineer for several years before devoting his life to the ministry for the next three decades.
As he considered a career change last year, he quickly learned, at age 57, to be competitive in today’s manufacturing job market, he would have to update his skills. He looked to Tri-County Technical College’s General Engineering Technology program for retraining.
Back in 1983, Porter envisioned his career path to be a straight road with no off ramps or exits.
He expected to work as an engineer for life – just like his father, a textile chemistry professor at Clemson, and his grandfather, a chemical engineer.
After graduating from Clemson University with a mechanical engineering degree, he began his career in industry with no idea that just a year and a half later, life would take an unexpected turn –where he and his wife were led toward ministry work in Florida and later missionary work in Mexico and Brazil.
“It’s what we were called to do,” Porter said of working as the lead minister of a large multicultural church with a membership of 1,400, and later both were missionaries for a decade in South America.
Last year he and his wife, Barbara, found themselves back in his hometown of Clemson, to be closer to family. He earned a real estate license but soon was searching for a new career with a ‘technical hard skill.’
Before he decided to get back into the manufacturing sector, he took a look at his resume and knew it was lacking the skills necessary for today’s manufacturing world.
“Tri-County filled those gaps for me. I wanted to develop a new career, and I was able to do so with Tri-County’s help,” he said.
He attended a QuickJobs workshop and later visited with General Engineering Technology (GET) Program Director Dorian McIntire. They agreed a GET degree would complement his engineering degree. “It would be the best fit for me and would give me the best job possibilities,” said Porter. All of his electives transferred from Clemson so he was enrolled only in engineering classes.
“I entered Tri-County just like any other freshman – except my computer skills weren’t as strong as most,” he admitted. “But I had mastered Spanish and Portuguese, (which he speaks fluently), while we were living and working in South America so I approached it like learning a new language. GET has been a great fit for me, and I have updated my skills and now I speak the language.”
“I have an entirely different resume one year later,” he said, “and the GET classes were the missing piece for me. I needed those hands-on skills for the engineering jobs of today.”
He says working on a capstone senior project alongside team members, most of whom are 30 years younger than he, along with classes in Solid Works, PLCs, photonics and arduinos, made him more marketable than a year ago.
Porter dedicated himself to academics, was a full-time student, taking 17 hours a semester, and graduated August 1 with a 4.0 and as the program’s outstanding student.
He says he couldn’t have been as successful without the support system Tri-County offers.
“All of my instructors – Dorian, Ted Stokes, Gregg Corley, and Foster Sims -- they were understanding and were very encouraging. My younger classmates were always willing to give me a hand with the computer skills,” he said. He visited the Tutoring Center regularly, was asked to join the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, and the National Society of Leadership and Success.
“I had a network of support for education and for encouragement. Making that connection made coming back to college so much easier. I had a wonderful experience here. Everyone was super helpful.”