There is no standardized definition of ‘nontraditional student’. The phrase often refers to young adults who have difficulty finding a fulfilling vocation, returning to a post-secondary environment after some years in the workforce. At Ranken Technical College, one example of this increasingly common route is Brett Stockmann, who graduated from the Plumbing certificate program in 2019.

Brett reflected on his circumstances before enrolling at Ranken, “college dropout . . .working the night shift . . .lacking much in the way of ambition or hope for a career that didn’t involve gasoline, hot dogs and racing the sun home.” Ready for a change, Brett toured Ranken, met Plumbing instructor Dave Munie and quickly enrolled. Dave says, “Brett came to Ranken with management experience, so he matriculated effortlessly into Ranken’s work ethics expectations . . . [he] jumped right into the curriculum and was a great problem solver and mentor to other students.”

Brett embraced the Ranken experience, referring to his two semesters as “a true adventure, one that has been rewarding beyond belief.” He eagerly familiarized himself with the various tools, became a SkillsUSA state finalist, jumped at the chance to conduct student-led tours for other potential plumbers, and was especially proud of the opportunity to install a permanent grease trap in the College’s cafeteria.

Brett is a Residential Service 2nd year apprentice with E&M Plumbing, working towards Journeyman status. It is fair to say that he views his path towards a new career with a sense of wonder, “the 9-month Plumbing day program at Ranken quite literally changed my entire future. It took me from a dead-end retail job to a well-paying, secure and rewarding profession that I’m proud of and I enjoy.” Brett is even considering returning as a plumbing instructor himself in the future. He says, “Looking back today, I am certain I am on the path I was meant to walk.”

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