Job retraining at Hawkeye Community College helps father land on his feet

Kent Zingg had a plan. He had 26 years under his belt at Wonder Bread and planned on five more until retirement. Then, the factory doors closed in 2012 and Zingg found himself looking for a job. His plans had changed.

“I didn’t know which way to go,” he said. “With my experience there’s really not a whole lot out there for running a factory and making bread. I would have to move to a different state.”

To stay close to home Zingg realized he’d need to switch gears. He decided to pursue a career in heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC), but first he’d need to learn new skills. For that, he didn’t have to leave Iowa – he just had to go down the street.

“Hawkeye was close,” he said. “It offered what I needed in life to get myself going again.”

Zingg enrolled in Hawkeye’s Heating and Air Conditioning program. He was nervous, even a little scared. He was 50 years old and going to class with much younger students, trying to learn new skills. He was determined to make it work in order to land a great job.

“You have to use your brain to make a good living,” he said.

He quickly found himself surrounded by support: from the college, his instructors, and his peers. He made a pact with his younger classmates that they would push each other to study, work hard, and keep on track. Zingg woke up early every morning to study. When he had questions, he visited Hawkeye’s Student Tutoring and Computer Lab. The experience helped him succeed in the program and even talk to his son about his own academic goals.

“If you don’t study and you don’t get the knowledge, you’ll have to start all over,” Zingg said. “The only way to make it in this world in these times is you have to have knowledge, you have to have a career, you have to have a direction.”

Zingg found his direction with the help of Randy Lowe, Heating and Air Conditioning program advisor. Lowe organized a career fair, connecting students with local HVAC employers for interviews. Zingg was hired by Plumb Tech, where he is using the skills gained at Hawkeye while continuing to learn every day.

“I love what I do,” he said. “I am learning so many different things.”

Zingg’s experience with Hawkeye gave his life a new direction and has shown his family hard work pays off. He says it’s important for anyone – of any age – to know it’s never too late to learn something new.

“Hawkeye offered me a door to come into and offered another door to finish my career,” he said. “I just want to tell anybody who loses their job in any way, things can get better, don’t let it get you down. Get up, wipe the dust off, check out school, and go from there. You can make a difference, you can do something.”

– Jason Staker

Learn about job retraining opportunities, from short-term training to career programs, at www.hawkeyecollege.edu or call 391-296-4489.