NDT grad says community colleges are vital

Sam Pfleger’s curiosity led her to Southeast Community College, its Nondestructive Testing Technology program, and a good job at age 20.

“My older brother received a scholarship to attend the NDT program at SCC,” the Kenosha, Wisconsin, native said. “Visiting with him, I became interested in the field as well. It really interested me because it was something I had never heard of before. Even working in the field, I still come across people who have never heard of it.”

Sam graduated in December 2018 with a degree in NDT and a certificate in business. Her brother Joshua is a June 2016 NDT graduate.

Sam is an NDT technician at Lockheed Martin in Littleton, Colorado. She started with the company in mid-January 2019. Her day-to-day tasks change depending on the type of work, but she uses ultrasonic and thermography testing on different panels (flight hardware).

October is Manufacturing Month, and Sam said designating the time to bring awareness is a step toward changing the stigma that surrounds trade schools and community colleges.

“Trade schools and community colleges oftentimes are looked down upon,” she said. “When I was preparing to graduate from (Bradford) high school, there was a big hype about going to a four-year college, and if you weren’t, it was perceived as you not being ‘smart enough’. I personally think it’s the opposite. Trade-style jobs are what keep this country going.”

Sam was among 15 SCC students who graduated from the NDT program in 2018. The average starting salary for the group was $43,264.

“My education at SCC is what set me apart from other applicants when applying for the job here at Lockheed Martin,” Sam said. “I came in with a confidence that I can do this job because I was taught well, and that was very quickly realized to be true once I started working.”

Sam rates the instruction she received at SCC as very high.

“I will never forget, nor stop thanking, (NDT instructors) Bill (Wiley) and Randy (Walbridge) for pushing me to be the best student I could be, or cracking the whip when I was slacking and they knew I could do better,” she said. “I will also forever be thankful for Sheri Christensen, who taught the physics class I needed. She was always willing to help through any and all struggles.”

Sam loves what she does and has some advice for people who enjoy hands-on activities.

“If you like to work with your hands and don’t love school, go into a trade,” she said. “The majority of class time is really lab time, and having a degree in half the time means you get to be out in the workforce that much sooner. Since I went in right after high school, I was able to graduate college at 20. Twenty! To be out of school with a degree at such a young age has provided many opportunities.”


Stu Osterthun
Administrative Director of Public Information & Marketing