Training opportunity changes life

Miguel Salcedo has a special spark. And no, it’s not from his welding torch. It’s something from deep inside, a flame ignited after an opportunity from Muscatine Community College (MCC) forever changed his life.

Just a few short years ago, Salcedo was barely getting by. The father of eight boys, ranging from ages 24 to infant, was up before sunrise and home after sunset bringing home less than 15 dollars an hour.

“We were really struggling,” Salcedo said of the situation. Not only was it difficult financially, but it was taking an emotional toll on the whole family.

“That job was taking away too much family time,” said wife Malinda Salcedo. “The kids were never seeing him, by the time he got home they were already in bed and by the time they woke up he was already gone for work.”

Eager to learn and provide a better future for his family, when Salcedo heard about a new program that could provide training for an in-demand skill set like welding, he jumped at the chance. Called “Pathway out of Poverty,” the program gives those who qualify the opportunity to complete a six week welding certificate at no cost.

“At first I was scared, but now I’m a master at welding,” he said. “I loved it. First of all, it was exciting to go back to school. Second of all, it was cool because the guys here really treat each other like family, even the dean would come out and check on us. The faculty and staff really cared about you.”

For Salcedo the experience was a major confidence builder. As he talks about welding, you can’t help but notice the big smile on his face and excitement in his voice. He went from knowing nothing about the trade to fielding calls from friends for help welding one thing or another.

“At first I was shy,” he said. “But now I’m like, ‘okay, I got this!’ I’m kind of more respected now.”

Part of that feeling of respect also stems from the multiple offers he had waiting upon graduation. During the program, students toured several local companies and met with potential employers eager to hire desperately needed new talent.

“The biggest accomplishment for me was when I passed the certification test,” said Salcedo. “The testing was hard, but I passed it. That felt good, from having no job really to people wanting to hire me. My classmates and I felt like we are worth something now.”

Salcedo currently works as a welder for a local construction company, and his salary has doubled since completing the program nearly two years ago. His wife, Malinda, can also take comfort in knowing he will be home by 5 or 6 p.m. on a late night.

“I think it’s amazing,” she said of the whole experience.

“Malinda’s really the hero here,” Salcedo countered. “She encouraged me and said ‘I got the babies, go ahead.’”

Even so, Salcedo’s actions have opened the door of the possibility for the whole family. Malinda’s considering taking classes and their older children have seen first-hand the difference education can make.

“I have my diploma framed on the wall,” Salcedo said. “I tell my kids, look man, you can do it.”

You can earn a Welding Certificate, Diploma, or Associate’s Degree and have your tuition paid. Iowa’s Last-Dollar Program will cover the cost of tuition in more than 25 high-demand programs, including welding. Learn more at

Fueling our Future

Salcedo shares story with Iowa Governor

Salcedo and his wife Malinda recently shared their story at a round-table discussion held at MCC, featuring Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and Muscatine community partners. Salcedo explained how the opportunity to gain a high-demand skill set improved his family’s life.

The purpose of the discussion was to inform Reynolds of a new pilot project called “Fueling the Future.” The pilot targets adults in low-income families of elementary-aged children receiving weekend “backpack” food subsidies in Muscatine and engages them in a six-week intensive “learn while you earn” upskill training at Muscatine Community College.

The six-week certificate programs include Welding, CNC Machining and Certified Nursing Assistant, all of which are high-demand jobs in Iowa.