Richland College Garland Campus’ Machine Operator Program Offers New Skills, New Life

Tue, 04/30/2013 - 2:54pm

For Chris Cleveland and Sherille Bell, Richland College Garland Campus’ Machine Operator Program was more than just an educational opportunity — it was a lifeline.

In 2010, Chris was living with his mother and working at Kroger making $7.35 an hour. His family was facing eviction and $7.35 an hour wasn’t enough to help. Chris went for a walk to clear his head.

Chris Cleveland at his job with Nova Magnetics, Inc., in Garland.He wandered by Richland College’s Garland Campus on Walnut Street and decided to go inside. Chris started talking with a security officer who told him about the Machine Operator program and encouraged him to talk to Ron Bowman, the program administrator.

Chris found out that the 12-week Machine Operator program was designed for people ages 18-21 with high school diplomas or GEDs. It teaches students the skills they need to be immediately employable in today’s high-tech manufacturing industry. Through a grant, funded by Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas, the program is offered at no cost to students who qualify for assistance.

Chris qualified and jumped at the chance.

“I realized from the beginning that the program was a good idea,” Chris said. “It’s not easy. You have to do the work. No one is handing you anything. I had to make it work or be out on the streets.”

Today, Chris works for Nova Magnetics in Garland making $10 an hour. He feels optimistic about his future and career.

“I was definitely prepared from what I learned in the Machine Operator Program and it motivated me to develop new skills on the job. I’m learning everything I can,” Chris said. “Who knows what I would be doing if I hadn’t gone to Richland College Garland Campus. Maybe I’d still be working making $7.35 an hour and living with my mom. I know I couldn’t have been on my own for the past three years. I am proud of that.”

Sherille Bell using the equipment in the Richland College Garland Campus machine operator lab.Sherille Bell also needed a change. She returned to the Dallas area in 2012 and was staying with her aunt, who lives near the Garland Campus. Sherille said at that time, her life wasn’t headed in the right direction and she needed to do something to change.

Her aunt encouraged her to see if the Garland Campus could help. Sherille started Machine Operator classes the week after she visited.

Sherille worked hard and completed the program. She now works for GTM Plastics in Garland.

“This is the first real job I’ve ever had in my life,” Sherille said. “Finishing the program and getting a job makes me feel good. My first baby is on the way and I can support my child. My mom wasn’t there for me but now I can change that for my child.”

Richland College Garland Campus developed the Machine Operator program in 2009 in response to the needs voiced by the Dallas County Manufacturers’ Association.

Prospective students don’t need any manufacturing experience to start the program. The course consists of 10 weeks of classroom instruction including shop math, blueprint reading and machine shop lab plus a two-week, unpaid internship. It also includes an OSHA 10 certification and a forklift operator certification – extras which frequently give graduates an advantage when job hunting.

“Manufacturing companies are looking for individuals who can work well with a team, have problem-solving skills, critical-thinking skills, computer literacy, creativity and a good attitude,” Mr. Bowman said. “We work with students to make sure they have the opportunity to succeed.”

Mr. Bowman said the program has a 75 percent placement rate for its graduates.

More information about the program:

Enrollment is open now for the Machine Operator program. Information sessions about the program are held every Tuesday and Thursday at 9 a.m. at the Garland Campus, 675 W. Walnut Street.

To learn more, visit or contact Ron Bowman at or 214-360-1201. Richland College Garland Campus is an equal opportunity institution

For 40 years, Richland College of the Dallas County Community College District has focused on teaching, learning and community building. In recognition of these efforts, the White House and the Dept. of Commerce named Richland a 2005 recipient of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the only community college to have received this award.



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