JVS Graduate & Engineer Pays for College with Skills
Neil Graffi , Industrial Electricity, Class of: 1999
Soar and succeed.
Each year, Lorain County JVS programs propel students to new heights and horizons.
And that is exactly what Neil Graffi did after graduating from the JVS Industrial Electricity Program in 1999.
"I was fascinated with mechanics as a kid, and I liked the idea of learning a skilled trade and earning a diploma at the same time," said Graffi, a program engineer at Cutting Dynamics Inc. (CDI).
The Avon company provides engineering support, components and assemblies for various industries including aerospace, trucking, construction and recreational vehicles.
"Without a doubt, my JVS training guided me down this path," said Graffi, 30, of Avon Lake.
Graffi honed his technical skills during an internship at Smink Electric in Elyria. He was wiring new and existing homes as a senior in high school.
"Although I enjoyed the work, I wanted something more - a college diploma - which I achieved while working full time at Smink and attending classes at Lorain County Community College," he continued.
"I knew what I liked but wasn't sure where I wanted to go with my career," said Graffi, who studied robotics and motor controls and graduated from LCCC with an Associate Degree in Automation Engineering.
Which led Graffi to CDI, where he initially operated a press brake.
The work is extremely precise because the device is used to form, cut or punch metal to blueprint specifications, Graffi explained.
"My boss saw that I had potential and before long I had learned the ins and outs of the press braking machine, which led me to program engineering," he said.
Graffi's responsibilities include converting a client's 3D drawings into 2D, readable directions for the production department, which designs the tooling, devises a manufacturing plan and creates a functioning assembly with moving parts for the customer.
"It's important to flush out problems beforehand because these assemblies are often very complex in regard to size and specification," Graffi said.
Graffi said that CDI's focus on aerospace technology has enabled the company to prosper during the nationwide economic crisis.
That includes manufacturing lighter, fuel-efficient parts that allow aircraft to fly longer distances and keep fuel costs low, he said.
"The work we do is never stale. We're always planning for the next step to remain on the cutting edge," said Graffi, who attends classes when necessary to stay on top of his game.
Graffi said that he is grateful to JVS instructor Jan Ramirez for realizing his potential and pushing him to become successful.
"Mr. Ramirez used a tough-love approach. There was no sugar coating," said Graffi. "He expected the best from everybody and tried to teach us that hard work pays off."
Said Graffi: "Technology is constantly changing. It is important for the JVS to keep pace and give students the best tools available. There will always be a need for educated people, and if you are good at what you do and trained to do it well, you will succeed in the workplace. Someone with superior knowledge coming into an industry with hands-on training and experience is leaps and bounds ahead of most of the competition. The JVS gave me a head start. I wouldn't have advanced as quickly in my career without my JVS education and training."