A Texas native, Chris Heinen followed in his parents’ footsteps and entered the military, the Army Infantry, in 1987 at the age of 19. After a back injury rendered him unable to continue to serve, Chris returned to civilian life. He used his skills-based high school education to quickly find work in the construction industry. After nearly twenty years in the field, however, job instability was wearing on Chris.

“In 2008 when the economy went bad, I was laid off from a few consecutive roles. But even before that, the lack of regulation in the construction industry really wore me down,” said Chris.

Chris began considering a career change that year, but it would be a few years before he found an opportunity that felt right. Through SC Works, Chris met Greenville Technical College employment coordinator, Steve Hand, who invited him to an on-campus open house and informed him that there was funding available for veterans.

His $2,000 course fully paid for by the Veteran Scholarship Forever fund, Chris was able to enter a Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) Operator certification course, the first step in a series of certifications that will allow him to work as a specialized machine tool operator for area manufacturers. He has obtained his Level 1 Certification and is on his way to obtaining Levels 2 and 3.

Not only has the program opened up potential long-term, stable employment opportunities for Chris, but he has also been invited into a part-time role teaching a specific machine operator software at Greenville Tech.

“I can’t tell you how much it’s helped,” said Chris. “I’ve taken this opportunity to really display my work ethic and to make connections during the program. I’m ready for the next job opening that comes along.”