Leo Cooksey, of South Elgin, found the key to his future right in his backyard as he settled in a neighborhood near Elgin Community College. Cooksey served for 12 years in four branches of the military, but an injury limited his ability to lift heavy parts or stand for long periods of time. Nearing the age of 40 and due to his injury, he needed to make a career change. He turned his knowledge of heavy machinery into the basis for a new career. Now, Cooksey sees his future in a new light.
In July 2020, Cooksey received a call from Sternberg Lighting in Roselle regarding an internship opening and welcomed the opportunity.
“My internship at Sternberg Lighting is very exciting, and I love coming to work,“ he said. “I've been working all my life and I never had a job where I just loved coming to work.“
Cooksey's tasks at Sternberg are to assist senior engineers with sketching electrical posts and anchors using 3D CAD engineering software. Due to his success and aptitude, his internship turned into an offer for full-time employment.
He credits ECC faculty’s expertise, patience, and dedication with helping his success. “They were very thorough and always made time for one-on-one review. I used to spend six to seven hours straight in class — even if I didn't have to be there, I wanted to be there learning more,“ said Cooksey. “They also helped connect me with ECC’s Strategic Partnerships and Experiential Learning internship coordinator so I could learn more about the internship program and connect with companies looking to work with ECC students like me.“
What’s next for Cooksey? After earning multiple certificates through computer integrated manufacturing courses, including AutoCAD, he is on track to complete an Associate of Applied Science degree in industrial manufacturing in fall 2021 — but he’s not stopping there. He plans to continue to build on his education and earn bachelor's and master's degrees in the industrial manufacturing field. “ECC gave me the foundation and the knowledge for me to cross that threshold, and Sternberg helped me with the experience I need to go further.“
Hear more about Cooksey's story on YouTube.