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From CNM to Sandia National Labs

CNM graduate David Sanchez gained an appreciation for electronics through guitars and amps, then applied his zeal for electronics to a challenging and high-quality career at one of the top national laboratories in the country.
From CNM to Sandia National Labs
David is currently a third-year apprentice at Sandia National Laboratories. (Photo courtesy of Sandia National Laboratories)

Jun 19, 2019

It all started with a love for rock and roll. Before enrolling at CNM, David Sanchez spent his time playing guitar and experimenting with the intricacies of guitar electronics.

“I’d been fiddling around with pedals, amps and the basic circuitries of guitars for years,” David says. “So I decided enroll in CNM’s Electronic Technology program, primarily to learn more about the fundamentals of electronics and to gain a deeper understanding of how the systems work.”

David worked in the electronics industry for years but without a college degree, his career plateaued. He says that he wanted the ability to take his career to the next level which is why he chose to pursue a college education.

“I wanted to use my education as leverage to try and get a raise or even find a new, better job,” he says. “I worked full time while attending CNM and eventually graduated with an Associate of Applied Science degree.”

Upon graduating, David’s favorite CNM instructor and highly-regarded mentor told him about a job opportunity at Sandia National Laboratories.

“I had never even thought about applying to Sandia,” David says. “I researched the job posting which was for the apprenticeship program in electronic fabrication, and it really piqued my interest.”

David says the apprentice position at Sandia National Labs was a perfect for him. It gave him a life-changing opportunity to do what he loves to do.

“I love working with my hands, I like soldering, I like building stuff. The requirements for the position were specialized in what I was already doing at home, working with guitar amps and other electronics systems,” he says.

David's passion for guitar electronics motivated him to apply to Sandia Laboratories' apprenticeship program.  (Photo courtesy of David Sanchez)
David's passion for guitar electronics motivated him to apply to Sandia Laboratories' apprenticeship program. (Photo courtesy of David Sanchez)

One of the requirements for the apprenticeship is having a two-year degree in a field relevant to the position. David was a perfect fit. He applied and got the apprenticeship in 2016.

Now, David is a third-year apprentice in Sandia National Lab’s electronic fabrication program and says that working at the labs has been an amazing learning experience.

“It’s very challenging, which I love. I really enjoy putting everything together into a working unit and really seeing my work come to fruition,” David says. 

Working as an apprentice at Sandia Labs definitely has its perks. David receives full benefits and a good starting pay rate. When he finishes the apprenticeship, David will be promoted to a Union Tradesman position or “Journeyman,” which means he will receive a relatively large increase in pay which can be upwards of $30 an hour to start.

“It’s pay that I wouldn’t have been able to get without my degree from CNM,” David says. “To go from CNM to Sandia is truly amazing. I got to receive a really good education that I am super passionate about and then apply it to a great organization like Sandia National Labs. It’s truly been a great experience.”

According to Michael McKernan, head of the apprenticeship programs at Sandia Labs, there are currently four active apprenticeship programs that only require a two-year degree. The program requirements are versatile and remain open to diverse fields of study relevant to each position.

“We hire individuals who have two-year degrees in fields like welding, chemistry, physics, mathematics and mechanical engineering,” Michael says. “As long as they have that Associate of Applied Science degree, they are eligible for our programs.”

Michael says that there is absolutely an increase in demand for more skilled trades workers at Sandia Labs, especially with a significant number of employees nearing retirement age.

“As Sandia grows and as our missions continue to expand, we continue to need highly-skilled trades workers to help meet our goals from the ground up,” he says. “They are the ones giving us the capabilities to grow our organization by being hands-on and doing this type of work.”

As for David, he has proven to be a great asset to the Sandia Labs team.

“David has come into this program and progressed really quickly. He’s on top of the processes that he’s learning and he’s really somebody we can trust for high-level customer commitments,” Michael says.

Learn more about CNM’s Programs of Study and Sandia National Laboratories career opportunities.