A New Career at 60

Ralph Lyke, '13 prepares tax returns for low-income families. He started a new career after spending 32 years at New Process Gear.
Ralph Lyke, ’13 prepares tax returns for low-income families. He started a new career after spending 32 years at New Process Gear.

Ralph Lyke has a knack for numbers. Ask him when he started working at New Process Gear in Dewitt and without hesitating he says, “May 17, 1976.” Ask him when his last day on the job was and he rattles off, “May 2, 2008” just as fast. Perhaps it’s no coincidence his new career is centered around numbers. Lyke prepares tax returns for low-income citizens. He credits OCC’s Career and Applied Learning Center with helping set him on the right path.

After getting laid off in 2008 Lyke spent several years doing volunteer work. “I wanted to help people in the community. It was also important to have something on my resume between New Process Gear and whatever would come next.”

Lyke began working on “whatever would come next” in the summer of 2011 when he began pursuing an Accounting degree at OCC. His tuition was covered thanks to the Trade Adjustment Act. It  provides support for workers who lost their jobs due to foreign trade and offers services in gaining the necessary knowledge and skills to obtain future employment.

Rose Martens
Rose Martens in OCC’s Career and Applied Learning Center

Lyke remembers the day everything changed for him. “I was in income tax accounting class and a student told me he was doing an internship. He told me to go see Rose Martens in the Career and Applied Learning Center.” Lyke took the student’s advice and he was on his way. “She arranged an internship for me at PEACE.” Lyke worked as a tax preparer and did so well he was named the PEACE 2013 Volunteer of the Year. That same year he earned his Accounting degree from OCC.

As the 2014 tax season approached a position with PEACE opened up. Lyke was offered it and accepted. He now comes to OCC every Monday during tax season and works on returns for low-income people who need assistance. The rest of his time is spent in Dewitt’s Shoppingtown Mall where he does tax returns Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. “This isn’t a job. It’s more like a calling. We help middle and low income people. It’s very rewarding when you can help people out.”

Lyke is not only happy to help others, he’s grateful for the new career he found. “I was lucky. I’m 60 years old. Your options are limited at my age. The starting point was Rose Martens. If I hadn’t met her I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Manufacturing A New Career

Danny Dziadula is working less than a mile from where he hoped he would retire from. Like many of his family members, Dziadula had a well-paying job at New Process Gear in East Syracuse. He started there in 1992 and stayed until the plant closed in August 2012. Thanks to a program at Onondaga Community College, Dziadula was able to begin his new career two-and-a-half years later at Inficon, a global company which provides world-class instruments for gas analysis. Its growing facility is just south of the shuttered New Process Gear factory off Fly Road in East Syracuse.

As New Process Gear was closing Dziadula learned about a retraining program at OCC thanks to the Trade Adjustment Act (TAA). The TAA provides support for workers who lost their jobs due to foreign trade and offers services in gaining the necessary knowledge and skills to obtain future employment. Dziadula met with Bob Tanchak, a professor in the Mechanical Technology department, and felt confident he could earn a degree. “He assured me that with my experience I would able to smoothly transition and be successful in the program.”

Dziadula began taking classes full time in January 2013. “The professors who are teaching you have been in the field working, and now they’re teaching us the skills they learned and really making our classes very hands on.” Dziadula graduated in December 2014 with his Mechanical Technology degree and soon after began applying for jobs. Through his OCC adviser, Steve White, he was connected with Inficon. He applied for a job and was hired one month later.

“The professors and advisers at OCC really want to help you even after you earn your degree. They want to place you into the workforce and show that their good students become good employees.” Dziadula’s previous work experience and new degree allowed him to find a new company to call home. “In this day and age you need a degree to succeed, and change is good.”