A longtime member of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers with a resume that spans four states, three universities and two major corporations, John Kovalchuck still regards the arbor press that sits on the shelf in his South Campus office as the most symbolic item of his career.
“I made this in shop class when I was 16,” says Kovalchuck, “and it’s the one thing I would like my son to have.”
A textbook example of where apprenticeships can lead, Kovalchuck’s son John was an apprentice mold maker before earning two associate degrees from Macomb, a bachelor’s degree from Ferris State University and a master’s degree in business from Oakland University. He now works as an applications engineer for Makino Industries, traveling the world on behalf of the company.
“When he was interviewed, they looked at his resume and asked him, ‘Where have you been? We’ve been looking for you for years,” relates Kovalchuck. “Both of my children are products of vocational high school programs. John is an engineer and my daughter is a pharmacist.”
Kovalchuck’s own career started with a Bachelor’s Degree in Industrial Arts from the State University of New York at Oswego and a Master’s Degree in Vocational Education from the University of Wisconsin – Stout. He taught high school shop in Chicago, was Manufacturing and Machine Design program director at Bowling Green State University, Firelands Campus, taught CNC and manufacturing technology classes at Western Illinois University and was a CNC consultant for Southern Illinois University. A position as a CNC applications engineer in the General Motors Die Management group brought him and his family to Michigan, which was followed by a position as superintendent of the Ford Motor Company Tool and Die Machining Department. At both GM and Ford, Kovalchuck led CAD CAM conversion teams, troubleshooting problems with the industry’s newest tool and die processes.
“There was all this new CNC technology,” says Kovalchuck, “and I was so excited about all of it.”
Although Kovalchuck joined Macomb to teach workforce development classes seven years ago, he has been the chief instructor in the Michigan Apprenticeship Program Plus (MAP+) for the past four. The U.S. Dept. of Labor-funded program, which casts a new light on career opportunities in the skilled trades, won Automation Alley’s 2016 Outstanding Educational Initiative Award.
“Connecting high school students with skilled jobs that provide sustainable incomes is the heart and soul of this program, says Kovalchuck. “And it’s my passion, too.”