Michael Hutton is extremely thankful for the training and opportunities IOT in Salem was able to provide for him. “I was out of school Friday, interviewed for a job, and I was working on Monday,” he said with a wide smile.
Before coming to IOT to study in the HVAC program, Michael worked for years as a handyman. “I enjoy walking in and solving a problem for someone,” Michael said. “It could be a leaking roof, dry rot, whatever.” He remodeled his mother’s house and Michael now calls it his “show house.” He worked on everything from the plumbing under the house to the landscaping outside the house. “I had never done the kind of plumbing and soldering that was needed under the house. I worked on it all day and all night. My mom said she had never seen anyone so driven before.”
Michael has always brought that kind of attention and drive to his work and in learning new things. In fact, it was frustration with the lack of progress in his previous job as a primary provider for adults with disabilities that led him to Institute of Technology.
For five years, while he continued his work during the day as a handyman, Michael worked evenings with adults with developmental disabilities, ADHD, schizophrenia, and other mental health issues in a foster care environment for a non-profit organization in Oregon. The mission was to provide administrative support to people with these disabilities and their families, especially for those disabled adults who wanted more self-direction in improving their lives.
As a primary provider, Michael lived in a large house with four clients at a time, all between the ages of 24 and 28 years old. He always worked to set a good example for his clients, which meant he had to maintain pretty high personal standards for organization, housekeeping, and personal hygiene. “I might be working with the clients on how important it was for them to maintain a clean bedroom, for instance,” Michael said. “This meant my own room always had to be spotless. So if they had trouble meeting this goal, or if they challenged me, I could say, ‘You want to see a clean room? Come look at mine.’”
Michael struggled to bring needed changes in the lives of his clients and believed in what he was striving to accomplish with them. But increasingly Michael became more frustrated and stressed. He was discouraged that he didn’t see more improvement or change in his clients.
“If anything, at times it felt like it all went backwards with no progress,” Michael said. This led him to question the direction his life and work were taking. “I asked myself, ‘Do I want to continue to have this stress in my life?’” As he devoted more and more time to his evening job, his work as a handyman faltered. “I started re-thinking my life and I wanted to get back to what I was doing before. I wanted to be the service guy who figured out what needed to happen.”
He discovered the HVAC program at IOT, enrolled, and never looked back. “People would ask me why I was going to school. I’m 53 and people would tell me I’m too old. But I’m happy because now they can see why. And I got tons of support from my mom.”
IOT provided the focus and direction Michael needed to get back on the path that makes him happy. “Most of the teachers at IOT have worked in the field. One of my instructors, Loren Butman has great experience and presents a realistic side of things.” He cited Loren’s ability to adapt to different personalities and different interests in particular. “Hey, if a customer is upset, well I’ve been working with many different kinds of people for various jobs, and Loren helped me realize I can do this.”
Michael also enjoyed his Professional Development class. “I noticed things about myself in that class, I took it seriously, and it changed my life. Dr. Barb (his instructor Dr. Barb Carter), and everything IOT did to prepare us was helpful. I never needed a portfolio or resume before. It was a whole new world for me.”
That whole new world has presented opportunities Michael thought might be out there, but now he was opening those doors. He got a job at Northwest Mechanical in Albany, Oregon and started working the very next week after completing the HVAC program. Northwest specializes in both Commercial and Industrial heating, refrigeration and air conditioning so Michael has been able to get a wide variety of work experiences. “It’s my third week and I’ve already done work at Pizza Hut, Safeway, Panda Express, and at Linn-Benton College I was putting together a whole new kitchen.” He worked for a week at Oregon State University installing new stoves, dishwashers, and a reheat system. When he fixed a walk-in cooler with a display case for a local florist Michael thought, “I am seeing everything!”
One of his new responsibilities at Northwest is prevention maintenance and with his work ethic he is striving to learn as much as he can to ensure that his clients will be well served. “I look at the equipment closely to learn it and I’m getting familiar with it all. I take time when I’m not working – Youtubing and looking for information online. I even print off installation manuals when I find them.”
Things are going so well that Michael expects to get a raise before his 90-day review. “I’m already getting a van and then they can let me go out on my own. I already have a cell phone and iPad that the company has given me. I’m ecstatic. I have my nights off. I’ve been with my girlfriend for two years and after my previous job and then going to school, we now have time to spend together. I’ve lost ten pounds thanks to the lifestyle changes I’ve made and that IOT made possible.”
Michael is now that service guy he wanted to be. “Every night I wonder, ‘What is the next day going to have?’ IOT helped me get my head in the ballgame and taught me how to go for it – the rest of my life. Invest in yourself. IOT was an investment in myself that’s paid off.”