Kyle Muhr starts his day at 5 a.m. He kisses his wife good morning, says goodbye, and quietly slips out of the house and into his truck. He arrives to work well before the sun lights up the valley, but he doesn’t mind. He’s a full-time CNC machinist and a passionate one. Like many skilled tradesmen in western Colorado, he knows his way around a shop, and has spent years working with his hands — learning to build, fix and run just about any kind of machinery. This country was built by people like Muhr; men and women with the technical skills to figure things out, advance technology and thus move industry forward. These skills continue to be in high demand today, which is why Western Colorado Community College (WCCC) looks for individuals like Muhr to train tomorrow’s machinists.
In addition to working 40 hours a week, Muhr, who is also an alumnus, teaches two courses at Western Colorado Community College: Introduction to Machine Shop and Machining Fundamentals. He clocks out after work, calls his wife and is in the classroom an hour later passing on his skills to today’s future machinists.
“It’s a full schedule for sure,” said Muhr. “They’re long days but at the end of week it’s totally worth it. I’m helping my community, my company, as well as WCCC and the future workforce.”
It’s been three years since Muhr first started teaching and he said it’s important for students to get hands-on training from someone who is up-to-date and in the field.
“It’s also a great way to continue learning and to keep up with the evolution of the trades,” he added.
WCCC, a division of Colorado Mesa University, offers more than 80 career-oriented certificates and associate degrees. The programs are as diverse as the faculty.
Steve Metheny is at the opposite of where Muhr is in his career: he’s recently retired. They’re similar in that both started teaching while working full time. Metheny has been a part of CMU since the early 90’s, teaching one course every semester since 1991. He’s taught on CMU’s Montrose Campus, online and, after recently retiring from Delta-Montrose Electric Association after 38 years, he’s moved to WCCC to have a more active role. He’s currently assisting with the development of the Mechatronics program and the Mobile Learning Lab.
“Teaching is a brand new beginning. You help students get started in their career, help them pick a path and become successful. Then you get a new group of students and you start again,” said Metheny. “I think that is what keeps me going — is that it’s always changing.”
As a retiree, he likes the flexibility teaching offers adding instructors can teach as many or as few courses as they’d like.
For Vice President of Community College Affairs Brigitte Sündermann she lives and breathes WCCC, but it wasn’t always that way. After eight years as an engineer, she felt something was missing. She started substitute teaching with the idea she would just try it out and teach here and there. A year later, she was full time.
“I really did fall in love with it,” said Sündermann. “It added something to my life that I needed. If felt like I was able to give back in some way.”
Muhr, Metheny and Sündermann all agree — there’s nothing quite like educating young adults who are trying to change their lives for the better. WCCC is always looking to hire qualified individuals in a variety of fields, from machining to health sciences and beyond.
WCCC currently has 15 open positions and will be looking to hire for summer camps soon. If interested in working for WCCC or CMU visit www.coloradomesa.edu/human-resources/employment.html.