CINCINNATI -- When local startup Everything but the House withdrew from more than half its geographic markets and axed nearly half its jobs across the country in May, Christopher Hacker was jobless and stranded at 46.
"I was starting over halfway through life," he said. "I really had no idea what I was going to do."
Ohio Means Jobs gave some of Everything but the House's departing Cincinnati employees, Hacker among them, a $5,000 grant to continue their education and find another job somewhere else. For Hacker, ‘somewhere else' was Flamingo Air -- a company he had never heard of specializing in skills with which he had no experience.
He loved it.
Hacker graduated from Flamingo Air's Worker Bee drone training program, which equipped him and 17 other former EBTH employees with the skills to safely pilot, repair and maintain the unmanned aerial vehicles known as drones.
"Drone technology is on the cutting edge of new, developing industries," instructor and director of drone operations Tim Marshall said. "You can use drones to change lightbulbs, to paint your house, in search and rescue."
Knowing how to operate and care for them, therefore, is a skill in high demand. The people who graduate from the six-day course become part of a network -- Marshall makes sure they hear about any drone-related job opportunities that come through his inbox. They can also strike out on their own as entrepreneurs.
"Once you're done with the program, you can start your own business repairing drones or you can build custom drones," he said.
It's a possibility that excites Hacker, he said. Even better is knowing he has a future full of new possibilities.
"I'm exuberant," he said. "Over the moon. Even yesterday afternoon, I was speaking with my fiancee, I was driving and I said, ‘I feel like I'm floating, this is so exciting.' Now, I have this exciting career that's just laid out here for me -- for all of us."