Having spent eight years in the United States Marine Corps after high school, Chris Pickerel has lived the values of Honor, Courage and Commitment from an early age. Those values came in handy when he decided to return to school during his thirties.
“I was scared to death,” said Chris. “It had been 20 years since I was in high school.” A native of Tulsa and a family man with five kids, Chris had worked as a machinist in the energy industry for 10 years when he was laid off. After some soul-searching, and a little guidance from Workforce Oklahoma, he applied for admission to WTI Tulsa’s Heating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration program.
“My great grandpa was in the refrigeration business, I thought maybe I could follow in his footsteps,” Chris said. Returning to school required some of that Courage and Commitment from his Marine Corps days. He struggled a little in the beginning. “I was up there talking to the instructor every day for four weeks, then a lightbulb went on and everything started making sense.”
What also made sense for him was choosing WTI Tulsa. “They are a great crew, they actually care, and want you to succeed,” he said. “The school keeps you accountable. If you’re not in class, they want to know what’s going on.” Chris’s commitment and hard work gained him a grasp of the subject matter, and he had a unique ability to relate to the other students. They hired him as a nighttime teaching assistant while he completed his studies.
Chris graduated with his HACR certification on Feb. 9, 2017, a proud day for him and his family. Even more rewarding, after a referral from WTI Tulsa Director Scott Lester and two interviews, Chris began work the next day with Engineered Systems & Energy Solutions, Inc. (ES2). Today, he reflects on his first year at ES2, his promotion to Tech Level II, and a career that offers promise.
He recalls his time as a teacher’s aide at WTI, and knows that one day he will have the ability to share his expertise with an apprentice. “I like that I can help people get through their times, and help them understand that no matter what, they can get through it. They know if they want it, they have to earn it.”
Today, Chris is providing a more personal inspiration as his wife has decided to return to school and study nursing. “She was my biggest supporter. Now it’s my turn.”