Student Stories: Matthew McGovern

Student Stories: Matthew McGovern

Major: Electronics Technology 

Matthew McGovern was first drawn to welding because he didn’t have the patience to finish a bachelor’s degree in engineering.

He dropped out of college in order to do some soul searching and remembered how much he enjoyed his high school wood shop class.

“I realized I needed to work with my hands, so I looked into cabinet making but found a not-so-lucrative career path,” he said. “I asked myself, ‘What other material than wood could I play with for the rest of my life?’ I thought metal would be fun, so I looked into welding jobs and career paths and got excited about it.”

He attended the Illinois Welding School for a six-month program to learn MIG, TIG and stick welding and found his newest passion. This led to a job fabricating tubular heat exchanges but he was laid off due to a plant closing.

Then McGovern discovered he could apply for $10,000 in grant money through WorkNet DuPage to return to school. At College of DuPage, McGovern decided to pursue the Mechanical Maintenance certificate through the Electronics Technology program.

Workforce Development Services at COD

“As much as I love welding and working with my hands, I didn’t feel it was challenging enough and wanted to do something that would force me to use my mind as much as my hands,” he said. “Maintenance just seemed like a good fit, because I’ve been fixing things for family and friends my whole life.

“COD helped me meet my goal by giving me everything I could have asked for in a maintenance certificate and allowing me to learn using expensive machines that otherwise I would have no access to. Where other schools might have sat me in a classroom and gave me a book on robots, COD allowed me to program and troubleshoot a real industry-standard robot.”

McGovern currently works as the industrial maintenance technician for a polyurethane timing belt manufacturer. Because of his lifelong passion for robots, instilled at a young age by his electrical engineer parents who gave him built-it-yourself robot kits, he eventually wants to program and maintain robots. His advice to other students is to practice – and practice and practice some more. 

“Welding is like 75 percent muscle memory and the only way to form that muscle memory is to get as much under the hood time as you can, so just keep at it,” he said. “Also, don’t think you have to stop at being a welder because there are other welding-related jobs out there like weld engineering, metallurgy, non-destructive testing and automated welding that are just as, if not more, lucrative and just as in demand.”

Learn more about the Electronics Technology program at College of DuPage