When Toney O’Neal was laid off from his job at Bridgestone/Firestone in Des Moines, he came back to his hometown to get back on track. He was able to enroll in the short-term Industrial Maintenance program at Hawkeye Community College, the first step on what ultimately would be a very rewarding journey.
“I’m a big fan of the whole program,” O’Neal said. “I didn’t realize how much demand there is for people with these skills. You will never be without a job. You can pick up and move anywhere in the country, and you could have a job in 30 days.”
O’Neal’s job training was possible because of GAP Tuition Assistance, a program providing need-based tuition assistance for short-term continuing education training in certain in-demand careers. Since non credit programs are not eligible for federal financial aid, the program is designed to bridge the funding gap for individuals meeting program and income guidelines.
“I can’t say enough about it,” O’Neal said. “GAP really breaks down barriers for individuals.”
GAP Tuition Assistance provides partial or total assistance for tuition, books, fees, and equipment for career training in the high-demand areas of truck driving, certified nursing assistant, CNC machining, industrial maintenance, and welding.
“The program takes away the obstacles for why you can’t go back to school,” O’Neal said. With the barriers removed, O’Neal was able to focus on his training, which provided him with hands-on experience and support from instructors with real-world experience.
“The instructors were really friendly,” he said. “They were very helpful. If someone didn’t understand something, they’d go back over it and work with you. They want you to have all these skills.”
Before even completing the program, employers were calling him. O’Neal found a job at Iowa Premium Beef in Tama as an industrial maintenance technician. He later accepted a job in facilities maintenance at Woodward Academy, closer to his home in Pilot Mound.
Now, after two years of work experience, he feels confident he can go anywhere and start out earning $22-28 per hour.
“You can pretty much pick the company you want to work for,” he said.
– Jason Staker
For more information about short-term training opportunities in Industrial Maintenance, visit
www.hawkeyecollege.edu/cf/industrial-maintenance or call 319-277-2490.
“GAP really breaks down barriers for individuals.”
– Toney O’Neal, Pilot Mound, Iowa
In 2013, the State of Iowa allocated funds for GAP Tuition Assistance and Pathways to Academic Careers and Employment (PACE). Since that time, nearly 200 individuals have completed one of seven different training programs, earning industry-recognized credentials. More than 90 percent are employed and many are continuing on a career pathway in programs on Hawkeye’s Main Campus.
For more information about GAP Tuition Assistance, call IowaWORKS Cedar Valley at 319-291-2546 or visit www.hawkeyecollege.edu/cf/gap.