‘The Power to Make Almost Anything’: Fullerton College’s Juan Castro Student Success Profile

April 30, 2019

Sometimes, getting laid off can be the best thing that ever happens to your career.

That was certainly the case for Juan Andrez Castro. In 2014, he was working as a maintenance technician at a small plastics processing facility in Corona when the company downsized. Suddenly, he was out of a job. 

“I realized then that I didn’t have formal training in any area, and my job opportunities were pretty limited,” the Los Angeles native remembers. “I decided to enroll at Fullerton and get my certificate in welding.”

In addition to the welding-specific courses, covering various cutting techniques and fabrication, Castro was required to take other tech courses. He enrolled in every elective he could, “but it was in the machine shop that I found what I wanted to do. I just fell in love with it,” he says. 

“The machines that sent a man to the moon? Those parts were made on these machines. For me, knowing that you have the power to make almost anything is pretty amazing.”

Today, 32 year-old Castro is a certified tool and die maker, welder, and a CNC (computer numeric controlled) machinist, with all accreditations earned at Fullerton College. It’s a breadth of skills that are not only synergistic – a machinist might need welding skills to fix a tool, for example – but will make him less vulnerable to market shifts in manufacturing. Jobs for welders are expected to grow six percent over the next few years, particularly as the nation focuses on improving aging infrastructure, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Growth in the tool and die industry will be slower, although many currently in the field are nearing retirement age.

Good machinists need to be adept at math, problem solving, and computer skills, and Castro got the chance to fine-tune all of those skills through courses and projects involving AutoCAD, SolidWorks, and technical mathematics. His CNC coursework has prepared him to program multi-axis CNC machines and run the mathematical calculations necessary to monitor and maintain systems.

“I’ve had instructors that have over 20 years’ experience in the field,” says Castro. “One owns his own machine shop where he does work for an aerospace company.” That kind of practical experience, plus well-equipped shops and labs, has made the Fullerton College experience invaluable.

“I’ve even heard that machine shop instructors from the University have visited and said our shop was better than anything they had,” Castro adds.

Currently, Castro is working for Research Tool and Die in Carson, making tools for a power press that will in turn mass produce marine electrical system hardware for naval communications.

The work is very satisfying, he says. “It takes a lot of time to produce some of these tools, and it does a lot for your self-esteem to know that you’ve created a tool that the company is relying on.”

As for career prospects, Castro is feeling pretty positive. When the semester ends, he’ll be heading to Houston, taking a job as a tool and die maker at Daikin, at a salary that’s more than double what he made just one year ago.

“The company looked at my resume and offered me the job over someone with more years of experience, and it was because of my certificates from Fullerton,” he says. “I really believe that my experience there made the difference between being offered a job or not.”

For more information on Fullerton College’s Manufacturing programs, visit https://cte.fullcoll.edu/department/manufacturing/