For 14 years, Greg Seals spent his days in the coal mines. He worked hard, day in and day out, to support his wife and four children. But when Blackjewel, a coal mining company with operations around the country, filed for bankruptcy and ultimately laid off its workforce, Seals was out of work and was left with a decision: What should he do now?
Seals went through his network and connected with one of his old high school buddies Matt Newman. Newman happened to be a FastForward Career Coach at Mountain Empire Community College.
“It’s always been something I wanted to do, go back to college,” said Seals. “I was working 6-7 days, 10-hour shift with four kids. I got laid off and took advantage. Matt told me about FastForward, I decided to get into. It changed my life.”
Seals made the best out of a bad situation by signing up for as many trainings as he could. When he sat down at Mountain Empire Community College, it was his first time in a higher education setting, and he was a little intimidated at the prospect of “going back to school,” but soon, those feelings fell by the wayside.
“The process to register was simple, even when I got the paperwork, I was like, ‘Is that it?’ I was expecting much more,” he said. “It’s still intimidating every day, but I’ve done really well. I’m an old man in some of my classes, a lot of these boys are so young and cocky, but I show them the old man still has it.”
So what does someone learn, if all they’ve known is coal? First up, Seals earned his commercial driver’s license. Next, he started his welding operation training, which wraps up in spring 2020.
“Getting my CDL with the welding boosts me to a different level, it makes me a really diverse candidate,” said Seals. “There are a lot of jobs that weld, but they may also push snow in the winter, which requires the CDL.”
Seals is doing as much as he can, training wise, while he has the time to do it. He’s also taking advantage of his unemployment by spending more time with his kids and becoming a role model for them in the future. His return to school not only is an inspiration to his kids, but his wife has also returned to school to get her master’s degree.
“I used to tell my kids, ‘Don’t be like your Daddy, go to college,’ but now I get to say, “Be like your Daddy, just go to college a lot sooner,” said Seals.
Through FastForward, with additional funding from other sources, Seals hasn’t paid a dime out of pocket for his training. Seals plans on continuing with his associate degree so he can continue moving up through the ranks in a future career.
To learn more about FastForward training where you live, reach out to you local coach to ask those questions.