Like blowing bubbles? Kiva Ford, 21, does. In his job at Roche Pharmaceuticals in Nutley he makes scientific apparatus, such as extractors that remove oil from rose petals. He loves the work's simplicity and the fact that it's practically an ancient art. "Glass blowing is similar to blowing a bubble with bubble gum - or even softer, like blowing soap bubbles," Kiva explains. "If you blow too hard it'll pop just like gum. I always liked making things with my hands. This is still a trade where you use your hands just like in the olden days."
After graduating from Delaware Valley Regional High School in 2002, Kiva enrolled in Salem Community College, which offers the only Scientific Glassblowing program in North America. With an Associate in Scientific Glass Technology, he landed the job at Roche after turning down FIVE others. Scientific glassblowers are in high demand—50% of the country's employers are located in South Jersey. "It's an older industry," says Kiva. "There are not many kids in it. There's a lot of work out there and a lot of people retiring." Kiva also uses his skills at his Milford home studio, creating glass art for galleries.
Kiva is only one example of a student who has chosen an alternative career path leading to a fulfilling job in a big New Jersey company. Shantell Jones, service advisor at Morristown BMW, loved high-performance cars and the whole car-racing thing, even before high school. "My father was into cars and it just rubbed off on me," she says. A month after graduating from Passaic County Technical Institute in June 2003, Shantell entered the Automotive Technology program at Lincoln Technology Institute in Mahwah. She learned diagnostics and repair, business management and shop procedures, qualifying her as a mechanic and more.
"In my job I have the opportunity to explain to customers how things work on cars. It's kind of like a teaching thing," Shantell explains. At 20, the Paterson native is proud of working for a major company. She plans to move up to service director. "If I stay here and learn what I'm supposed to, I'll make the same money as a mechanic without getting my hands dirty."