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OKMULGEE, Okla. (AP) — The School of Watchmaking at the Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology exceeded the expectations of two recent graduates.
The school graduated six students in December, one of the largest graduating classes in recent memory, said Program Chairman Jason Champion.
There have been as many as eight in a graduating class and as few as three over the past decade, Champion said on Tuesday.
Christopher Milton graduated and went to work at the Richemont Watch Service Center in Dallas.
"The watches come to the workbench, we clean them, replace any parts while doing repairs and then reassemble them," Milton told The Journal Record (http://bit.ly/1EChRjy).
Milton, 28, had been working in retail when he learned about OSUIT. He checked it out online.
"Everyone I talked to had nothing but positive things to say about it," Milton said.
Milton started work on an engineering degree before changing directions.
"I have always enjoyed tinkering and taking things apart," Milton said. "Engineering was not hands-on enough for what I wanted to do."
The school requires 94 credit hours for an associate degree. Depending on whether a student qualifies for in-state tuition or out-of-state tuition and other factors, the cost per hour can range from $153.50 to $349, according to the school's website.
Another graduate, David Threlkeld, 52, decided to turn a hobby into a career.
Threlkeld, who lives in the Dallas area, has several job offers with companies in Iowa, Ohio and North Carolina. He has not decided on which offer to accept.
"It is a matter of choosing where you want to live and who you want to work with," Threlkeld said. "This gives me a new direction as I head toward retirement. If I get to a point where I need to slow down, I can work for myself and do as much or as little as necessary."
Threlkeld had a career in the military as a helicopter pilot, then worked for himself while living in New Zealand. He decided to return to his Texas roots for his children's education.
Graduates can expect an annual salary from $40,000 to $60,000, based on test results and their skills, Champion said.
Threlkeld was satisfied with the salary offers.
"I would not want to raise children on the salary, but with my military retirement and my wife's military retirement, this is fine for a couple of empty nesters," Threlkeld said.
Threlkeld said the broad-based curriculum is one of the advantages of the program.
"It teaches you to be able to work for a jeweler or as an independent watchmaker, the whole gamut," Threlkeld said.
Another plus was the location of the school.
"This was not my first choice until I got there, then it became my first choice," Threlkeld said.
He'd already been accepted at a watch-making school in Seattle.
"At the time my son was still in high school, and going to school in Oklahoma made it easier to come home on weekends, rather than trying to come home from Seattle," Threlkeld said.
The school is one of only 10 for watch making in the United States, Champion said.
"Of all the schools, we feel we have by far the best facility," Champion said. "Okmulgee is not the limelight for watch making, but it does create an opportunity for learning."
Milton's advice for anyone looking for a career is to check on the OSUIT watch-making school.
"One of the best decisions I've made," Milton said.
Information from: The Journal Record, http://www.journalrecord.com
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