Local company quickly hired Ignite Davie grad

Published 12:51 pm Tuesday, November 21, 2023

By Meredith Ratledge

Word Master Media Group

Max Martinez’s journey from a recent graduate to a successful technician at Pro Refrigeration in Mocksville is a testament to the transformative power of the  IGNITE DAVIE College Promise (ID).

The program not only benefits students, but provides employees to local businesses.

The 2022 graduate of Davie County High School (DCHS) initially had plans to attend a four-year college but was persuaded by some of his peers and elders to pursue a trade free of charge through ID.

ID is a place-based last-dollar scholarship, meaning students must live in and attend school in Davie. All eligible high school graduates, regardless of financial need or academic ability, can continue their education and training.

Martinez opted for the one-year HVACR certification at Davidson-Davie Community College (DDCC). The program exposed him to trade options, preparing him for a career working with heating, ventilation, air conditioning, or refrigeration systems. He also obtained his EPA 608 Technician certification, allowing him to handle refrigerants.

Pro Refrigeration’s facility at Farmington Road and I-40 designs and manufactures heat exchangers and chiller systems tailored to the needs of its clients.

Martinez was impressed by how immersive the DDCC HVCAR  program was.

“The school is giving you all the resources. Our teacher would bring in companies to the classroom… there are so many opportunities they showed us even in just the heating and air world, and in refrigeration,” he said.

He appreciated the program’s emphasis on industrial and residential perspectives, giving students an understanding of potential career paths.

Jay Kimura, the manufacturing manager at Pro Refrigeration, is another avid supporter of the ID and DDCC’s HVCAR program. To Kimura, Martinez’s ambition and the practical skills he gained from DDCC made him a standout candidate.

“During the interview process, Martinez was confident and concise and was able to describe the things he’d done in the classroom, what he was learning, and what his goals were going forward. He was able to give me a rundown of what his vision was. It was a very easy hire.”

Beginning with his hire in June 2023, Martinez’s journey within the company has been swift. Pro Refrigeration manufactures industrial chiller systems for the food and beverage industry. Each product is custom-built in-house based on the needs of the client.

Martinez’s tasks vary daily, from building coils and mounting metal frames to ensuring the functionality of refrigeration units in the testing area.

His one-year goal was to start assisting with service calls in the field, which he achieved in three months. His three-year goal is to be able to work as a service technician in the field independently. At year five, he hopes to be a full refrigeration technician, capable of meeting any challenge.

“I think the biggest thing with Martinez’s growth is his want and work ethic,” Kimura said. “He hasn’t been afraid to jump into some of the positions we’ve asked him to fill, which makes a world of difference. He’s a true team player.”

Martinez first heard about ID while in middle school. Teachers continued encouraging students to consider the program throughout his time at DCHS. The program’s impact became apparent at the end of high school.

“When I was in high school, I didn’t know what I was going to do. And this was like a light in the dark,” said Martinez.

He was particularly motivated by the prospect of not having to stress about financial aid. Thanks to ID, his classes at DDCC and the Section 608 certification exam were completely free.

A pipeline of talent

“For me, I think it’s just exciting to see the students be involved in trades because the trades are a dying breed,” Kimura said. “And the trades will always help students through life, no matter what.”

The hands-on experience and exposure to fields help students make informed decisions about their future careers, ensuring a well-prepared workforce and pipeline of young talent for local businesses.

“If you say in the classroom, you can pursue CNC programming, for example, kids are going to think, ‘well, what’s CNC programming?’ But when you get to see the actual laser running and see metal get cut, it’s an eye-opener, Kimura said.

“The big thing with manufacturing is, you need folks. You need employees, and with the younger generation being introduced to what jobs there are, the different factories, the different employment opportunities, it’s key. It’s not just Pro Refrigeration. This program helps build the interest of the students as they’re making those career decisions.”

For Martinez, the answer for anyone interested in ID is clear. “Do it. It’s a great program. If you’re in high school and you don’t know what you’re going to do with your life, do ID; go to DDCC for a couple of years and get a trade or associate degree. Free school? You can’t beat that.”

Kimura agreed that ID is an excellent opportunity for students, whether they are interested in a trade certification, associate degree, or want to get a jumpstart on a four-year degree without incurring debt.

“If their heart is in it, they’re going to succeed. They will make a very good living at what they do and a life for themselves. To have a program that pays for your schooling is second to none.”

IGNITE DAVIE is funded by the community. To help make it sustainable, the Davie Community Foundation is helping to raise the final $250,000 of the $3 million endowment goal. Once achieved, the endowment will provide annual earnings to cover program costs indefinitely.

To add support, visit DavieFoundation.org/donate and select IGNITE DAVIE from the dropdown list. To learn more about the program, visit IgniteDavie.com.