When Omar Matthews registered to be part of Blue River Career Programs, he was searching for a future fueled by a memory in his past.
“I really wanted to do something with my hands and I wasn’t sure If I wanted to go to college yet so I needed something that I thought could be interesting to learn and diversify what I could do,” explained Matthews, who gravitated toward welding based on the memory of being a young child fascinated by the light created from the welding torch.
The two-year classroom program gave Matthews the skills he needed to join the workforce. Through BRCP’s co-op (internship) program, Matthews earned real-life experience over the past 13 months at Custom Machining in Shelbyville.
At the end of this month, Matthews will graduate from Shelbyville High School, work full-time at Custom Machining throughout the summer, then start college at Ivy Tech while maintaining hours at the company that believes in him.
And why not? Through his work at Custom Machining, Matthews received a statewide honor.
On Feb. 22, Matthews was selected the High School Intern of the Year at the 2019 IMPACT Awards Luncheon in Carmel.
In the awards program, his story stated: “Matthews demonstrated leadership in both the classroom and the workplace. While the foreman noted how daunting the processes of the shop are to new hires, that didn’t deter Matthews. Instead, new employees started asking him if their work looked right, as they noticed he was successfully completing parts. He developed a good relationship with everyone around him, regardless of any age gap, and earned respect with his work.”
Matthews had no idea when he was asked by a former BRCP instructor to fill out three essay questions for a reported award form being submitted for BRCP instructor Ray Schebler that he was, in fact, completing his own award application.
“I should have known in retrospect,” sighed Matthews.
Schebler had opportunities in the past to nominate students but it was something that typically got tabled – and then forgotten. But his belief in Matthews made him find the time this year.
“I’ve watched him for a couple of years,” explained Schebler. “It’s his leadership. It’s his smile. He has an easiness about him.”
Matthews’ goal is to finish college at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology or Purdue with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and stay in the manufacturing industry.
“I would like to stay in the manufacturing industry because I have work experience there and I love the industry,” he said. “I love the kind of people that are there. I love knowing how things work.”
Matthews already has approximately 13 months of on-the-job experience with Custom Machining where welding has only been part of his duties. And that’s where the recently turned 18 year old stood out because of his willingness to learn new tasks and take on more responsibility. That’s the added value of keeping him around for Custom Machining.
“I plan to stay there and work during the summer,” he said. “They are pretty lenient with wanting to work around my schedule. I tried making (my college) schedule work where I wouldn’t have to take a ton of time out of working Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. That’s almost impossible, though.
“So it’s working out for the first nine weeks I have to leave an hour early or two to make it to Indianapolis for engineering classes. By the second nine weeks, I have to come in late one day. Doing all that, I basically belong to Ivy Tech now from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays because otherwise it would take a massive chunk of time out from work.”
The busy schedule is worth it to Matthews, who is not yet 100 percent sold on getting an engineering degree. If he changes his mind, there is always welding to keep him going.
It was a normal December day when the IMPACT awards nomination letter arrived in his mailbox.
“I knew nothing about it,” he admitted but had to prepare for the ceremony.
With a new pair of khaki pants and a red button-up shirt, Matthews arrived at the luncheon not knowing what to expect. Only Schebler knew what was coming and he kept it secret – even from the Custom Machining representatives who attended as well.
“I got really nervous initially ... and then they called my name,” said Matthews. “That’s the moment where I kind of blacked out.”
He sat on stage and was interviewed about his internship experience and received his award.
The 13th annual IMPACT Awards Luncheon recognized individuals and companies in the following categories: Intern of the Year (college, high school and non-traditional), Intern Supervisor of the Year, Career Development Professional of the Year, and Employer of the Year (for-profit and non-profit).