This month at least, Friday the 13th is shaping up as a lucky day for Jason Wilson. That’s when the Sylva native is scheduled to graduate from Southwestern Community College with an associate’s degree in electronics engineering technology.
Three days later, he’ll start a new career as an industrial technical maintenance technician. He said his starting salary range will be in the range of $50,000-plus. That doesn’t include profit-sharing, which could equal up to 52 percent of base. Not bad for a guy who found himself unemployed just over two years ago.
Wilson will be working in Georgia at a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility that has more than 400,000 square feet.
“I never thought I would have a job like this, let alone get hired before I graduated,” said Wilson, the son of Charles and Kathy Wilson. “I never even thought of going to college until a couple of years ago."
When he graduated from Smoky Mountain High in 1996, Wilson had no desire to pursue a higher education. He worked several low wage jobs in construction, maintenance, and even had one in manufacturing that paid better - but it went away. He landed with the North Carolina DOT in 2011 but was laid off later that year.
Through the North Carolina Employment Security Commission’s career-readiness certificate program, he arrived at SCC’s campus. He tested well, earned the program’s Gold Certification and was offered last-dollar tuition through the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) to pursue an associate’s degree at Southwestern. The offer included books and gas money. All he had to do was attend school and meet standard grade requirements.
“I knew early on I was in the right place, I knew I was where I belonged,” he said.
Wilson excelled at SCC. He’s a member of the National Technical Honor Society and the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Fraternity, and he made the dean’s or president’s list every semester of his college career.
“Other than becoming a father, nothing has changed my life for the better more than my time at SCC,” Wilson said. “I never thought I would drive 150 miles to a place I'd never been, walk into an interview and return home with this kind of a career, and this is just the beginning."
For more information about SCC and its programs, visit www.southwesterncc.edu.