As a child, Anthany Mainka tinkered often in the garage with his grandfather. They fixed cars and lawnmowers together.
“He was so patient with me, even when I messed something up,” Mainka said.
He recognizes his grandfather had the right mix of diligence, restraint and time that made for an ideal learning environment. Several of Mainka’s relatives are mechanics, including his father.
Mainka, 22, of Alex, enrolled in an auto mechanics course as a high school student at Canadian Valley Technology Center. Despite a love for cars, it did not rev his engine.
After high school, he planned to go to college, but health issues forced a change of plans. It was an uncle who suggested he consider auto body work.
Mainka enrolled late last year in CV Tech’s Auto Collision Technology program at the Chickasha Campus. As an adult, he chose the option of attending all day in order to finish within a year.
The school’s Next Step Scholarship provides free tuition to all students under age 24 who also live inside district boundaries. Recipients also must have a diploma or graduate equivalent.
Mainka said he is on the right track in the auto body industry.
“I have not decided yet what I like most,” he said. “Our class just took a field trip to a body shop. The manager said students can go right to work and be a body man, a prepper, a painter or a welder. I like it all.”
Less than an hour’s drive north at CV Tech’s El Reno Campus, Jacob Mason is using the Next Step Scholarship to pay his tuition in the Precision Machining program.
A 2016 homeschool graduate, Mason, 20, of Piedmont, parlayed his interest in making things with his hands into a machining internship at Tinker Air Force Base while also attending CV Tech half a day.
Mason’s day begins with a 45-minute drive from his home in Piedmont to the Tinker Aerospace Complex, which was formerly the General Motors assembly plant in southeast Oklahoma City. Mason’s day continues after a 30-minute drive west on Interstate 40 to CV Tech.
The internship program pays over $18 per hour and is available to CV Tech students who are enrolled in Precision Machining. Each student must also interview at Tinker. The internship is designed to last six months until program completion at CV Tech. Full-time jobs with full benefits await those who remain in good standing throughout Tinker’s internship program.
Mason said he is taking in a lot each day at Tinker and CV Tech.
“My goal is to keep learning and getting better,” he said. “I need to make sure I can get hired full-time there and see how far I can go. For now, I am saving for a car that gets good gas mileage.”
Machinists use a variety of machines to transform chunks of aluminum, plastic, steel and other materials into precise parts, such as threaded bolts, pistons, cylinders and other parts largely for the aircraft and oilfield industries. Precision is key. Some parts require tolerances within hundredths of a millimeter.
“I didn’t know anything about all the details required until I came out and shadowed the program,” Mason said. “I always liked making things that interest me.
“Canadian Valley has definitely met my expectations. Most of what we do is hands-on. I’m really excited that once I’m done, I don’t have to pay back any loans.”
Justin Adam turned to CV Tech after starting college. Adam, 21, of Yukon, said finances are to blame.
“I left because it just wasn’t for me,” he said. “My grades were suffering, and I lost my financial aid.”
He enrolled this fall in CV Tech’s Digital Media Technology program at El Reno.
“It’s the closest to what I want to do, which is filming. I will finish next year, and I am liking it.”
For more information about CV Tech’s programs or about the Next Step Scholarship, visit cvtech.edu or call (405) 224-7220.