Meet Sarah Wright- Founder of Utah Clean Energy

April 26th, 2012

Sarah_Wright

Do you have an interest in puzzles? Do you like to figure out how something works? That’s where it all started for Sarah Wright. Driven by this curiosity, Sarah became involved with science in school and followed a related career path. Today, she is the founder of Utah Clean Energy and one of the women honored by Women of Wind Energy. WoWe recognized Sarah “for her accomplishments in promoting wind, renewable energy, and efficiency within her state. She effectively fostered diverse partnerships with state agencies, municipal governments, industry, agriculture, and community groups to advance clean energy solutions, and serves as an intervener in regulatory proceedings and a witness in legislative hearings. She also serves on the governor’s Energy Advisory Council and the Blue Ribbon Advisory Council on Climate Change.” ATETV caught up with Sarah this week to discuss her career further.

What is your background?
I have a BS in Geology from Bradley University, Peoria, Illinois and a Master of Science in Public Health from the University of Utah.

How did this lead to your career in renewable energies specifically? Why did you choose this area?
My career path to renewable energy was not exactly direct. My first job out of school was exploration geology for oil, gas and coal. From there I went back to school and then moved into environmental, ambient air quality and occupational health consulting serving industry partners across the West for 15 years. When my son was about two years old, I finally followed my passion, quit my stable consulting job and started exploring ways to utilize my project management, science, industry and regulatory expertise to help create a more sustainable energy industry framework.

This was in 2000 and anyone that was remotely watching energy issues in 2000-2001 remembers the California Energy ‘crisis’ and Enron debacle that had ripple effects across the entire West. At that point many Utah voices were promoting building more coal plants and transmission lines as the best solution to our energy challenges. Seeing a better way, I stepped in and started volunteering in the energy policy and utility regulatory arenas advocating for energy efficiency and renewable energy. I received incredible support and mentoring from clean energy advocates across the West and ended up starting Utah Clean Energy, a non-profit, non-partisan public interest group committed to stopping energy waste, driving clean energy development and building a smart energy future.

What is it like to run your own business?
Given that my business is running a non-profit working to advance clean energy, an issue that I’m passionate about, I love my job. A key for me was knowing my strengths and weaknesses then building a well-rounded team of passionate, smart and extremely capable people and empowering them to excel in whatever role they play for the success of the organization’s mission to lead and accelerate the clean energy transformation with vision and expertise.

What characteristics do you think make you successful in both (as an entrepreneur and as a scientist)?
Honestly, I don’t get to do much science these days. But what makes me successful as a social entrepreneur might be my ability to see the big picture, examine how it all fits together and what levers need to be pulled to facilitate the changes necessary for success. Passion, perseverance, patience and belief in humanity also helps.

Tell us about the Utah Wind Power Campaign?
The Utah Wind Power Campaign is in flux right now. It was a project of Utah Clean Energy, Utah’s State Energy Program in partnership with the Department of Energy’s Wind Powering America Program working collaboratively in a number of arenas to advance wind development in Utah. Due to funding cuts, Utah Clean Energy’s work to advance wind power is now focused on regulatory and policy advocacy to ensure that wind power competes with other energy sources on a level playing field.

It must have been frustrating to have the funding cut. Can you tell us where you see progress being made in the field?
It is unfortunate that some priorities have changed, but we are still making progress removing barriers and ensuring wind competes on a level playing field with other resources in utility planning, procurement, grid access and integration.

How has being a female contributed to your professional experience? What are the related challenges/ opportunities?
Being a professional woman offers both opportunities and challenges. As a change maker, working collaboratively, listening and understanding different perspectives and being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes are critical to success, regardless of gender. On the flip side, there are times when you need to be firm and stand your ground, and I admit that I have been intimidated in certain situations and sadly there is a segment of our society that is uncomfortable with strong women and views them in negative light.

Based on your experience- as a woman, entrepreneur, scientist and leader- do you have any advice for those just starting out? What keeps you going?
Follow your passion, network, don’t be afraid to ask for help and mentoring and keep at it.

If you could do it all over, would you make the same choices? Why? Why not?
I would have taken the leap sooner, left my stable consulting position and followed my passion to create a better future earlier in my career.

Sarah created opportunity for herself by applying her skills and talents to help solve a problem and address a greater need. Think you might also be interested in a career in renewable energy? Why not check out the American Wind Energy Association? They offer up-to-the-minute information on careers, education and industry. Some of which may be just what you need to help you get started!

How to Prepare for That Job Interview

April 5th, 2012

Congratulations. You’ve landed that interview for an exciting new job. What’s next? In this ATETV video, industry professionals tell you why taking the time to research a company first can pay-off big.

But where do you start? How do you know what to look for? What information should you gather and where do you find it? With the right preparation, you’ll ask better questions and be able to ultimately decide if a position with this company is right for you.

Start by answering the following questions and gathering the related information:

-Company specifics: How old is the company? How large is the company? Where is it located?
-What are its products and/or services? (Even nonprofit organizations serve people through education, lobbying efforts, publications, etc.) What is its essential purpose?
-Who are its customers?
-Who are its major competitors?
-What are its industry reputation/ standing?
-What are the goals of the company? What direction has the organization taken within the past one to two years, and what might be expected in the near future?
-What does this organization value? According to Boston College, “Obviously, for-profit organizations value profit. But most organizations are driven by other values, as well – social conformity; innovation; teamwork; efficiency; the professional development of its employees; public service. You should search for: a) what the organization states about its values, and b) what they really are. The two are not always in agreement.”
-If you will be working in a division of the organization, what is the role of that division, and how does it relate to the parent organization?
-What are the skills and personal qualities that successful professionals in the industry share?
-What problems has the company faced, if any and how did they handle them?
-What are the managerial structure and the place of the person conducting the interview?
-And lastly- according to Kathryn Vercillo on the Hub Pages,  “If you can find out one or two interesting facts about the company, “you’ll look like you have a true interest in the company rather than just seeing it as any old job.”

To find all of this out, start with the company Web site. First, read the job description you are applying for. Chances are it will be posted. Next, peruse the recent press and even take in the site map. You may be surprised at what information is available to you. Take a look at any blogs and work samples that may be posted. And don’t forget to read all of the fine print – including annual reports and news for investors.

Next, connect through LinkedIn and other social media sites. On LinkedIn, you can find other people involved with the business, what they do and perhaps even reach out to them to have a conversation. Check your own connections and their networks as well for greater access. On social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, you can gain insights into marketing strategies, target demographic, and client lists by following their pages. According to the Web site SensationalJobs.com here “You’ll find links to recent media features, conversations between important clients, and gain insight into the company’s public persona. You can also find useful information on the social media profiles of the recruitment team.”

Conduct a search on the company using a search engine like Yahoo! Or Google and watch the news. SensationalJobs.com reports that “The company might have been profiled in a business or trade magazine, such as Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, Working Mother, or a trade-specific periodical. Nowadays, most periodicals maintain an online catalogue of past issues. You simply type the company’s name into a search engine and see what comes up.”

If you are a student or have access to a college campus, pay a visit to both the alumni office and the career office. You might be able to interview alumni that currently work for the company and gain access to other relevant information.

Lastly, take the time to explore professional databases. These include: Hoovers, OneSource, and LexisNexis, online yellow pages, Forbes or the Fortune 500 list.

According to Kristin Morris at Dell, “Nothing is more impressive than going into an interview and already having information about the company.” Experts agree, if you do the research and present yourself with professionalism and enthusiasm, you will rise above the rest.

Welding: A Job That Can’t Be Outsourced

March 16th, 2012
Credit: Howard Woodward/American Welding Society

Credit: Howard Woodward/American Welding Society

If over the course of the past few days, you’ve ridden in a car, traveled across a bridge, or stepped inside a building, you’ve benefited from the work of welders. There’s hardly an industry in existence that doesn’t make use of welded materials, whether its transportation (automotive, shipbuilding and aerospace, for example), energy (mining, petrochemical extraction and refining), defense or construction.

In fact, more than 50 percent of all products made in the United States require some type of welding, according to the American Welding Society (AWS). So, not surprisingly, today’s job market for welders is strong. As AWS Executive Director Ray Shook has noted, “From an overall economic standpoint, it is a great time to become a welder as there are jobs available all over the world,” adding that nearly 100 percent of all welding school graduates find positions right away.

But, surprisingly, these jobs are going unfilled. According to the U.S. Department of Labor today there are 4 million fewer people working in skilled labor positions, such as welding, than there were 20 years ago.

ATE’s Weld-Ed National Center for Welding Education and Training is working to revive the country’s focus on welding and draw attention to this plentiful job market. Located at Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio, Weld-Ed also has nine additional community college and university partners including Chattanooga State Technical Community College, Honolulu Community College, Illinois Central College, North Dakota State College of Science, Pennsylvania College of Technology, Texas State Technical College, Yuba (CA) College, The Ohio State University and Weber State University (Utah).

Weld-Ed helps connect educational institutions and the welding industry, supporting state-of-the-art welding labs and learning-skills resources that are transferable to today’s industrial jobs. Weld-Ed also works to recruit and educate welding technicians.

According to the website Careers in Welding, there are more than 80 different welding processes, including Gas Metal Arc Welding, Gas Tungsten Arc Welding and Shielded Metal Arc Welding. The field is growing increasingly high-tech, with welders now being trained to operate robots and other automated systems that use powerful lasers, electron beams and even explosives to bond materials. Computers and computer software play increasingly important roles in these automated systems. Furthermore, welding is expanding beyond a metal-based field to include materials such as polymers, plastics, ceramics and man-made fibers, among other materials.

And, as crucial as welding is for our economy, it’s also critically important for our safety, as the country works to repair and replace highway bridges, refurbish energy production plants and maintain and construct new petrochemical production and refining facilities, many of which were built over 50 years ago. As ASW Executive Direction Ray Shook told the National Science Foundation Discovery Website, “While economy is always an issue in manufactured products, it is often surpassed by safety concerns in one-of-a-kind constructions. We are bound…to ensure that public structures such as buildings, roads and bridges will perform as intended, and welding plays a big role in making sure that happens.”

You can learn more about this growing field and career opportunities at these websites:
Welding School Locator
Jobs in Welding
Job Salaries

Lab Resources from ATE

March 10th, 2012

Did you know that some Advanced Technological Education (ATE) Projects and Programs offer a lot of resources for teaching Biotechnology and Lab skills? From free instructional materials and curriculum to career profiles and advice for connecting with employers, ATE programs like Bio-Link are invaluable to students, instructors and employers alike and a good place to start your research on launching a career in this field.

Here is just a sampling of what we found from the clearing house and Bio-Link as it relates to molecular biology and DNA research in particular:

Step-by- Step Tutorials for Selected Lab Activities
This is a collection of html and PowerPoint slides that break down selected lab activities and DNA research for instruction at Iowa State University.

Teaching Unit 6: Basics of Molecular Cloning (Blue/White Selection)

This is a free unit that “describes the methods and development of molecular cloning and blue/white selection. The laboratory is a math-intensive protocol that takes students from excising a gene fragment through subcloning, transformation, and gene expression.”

Career videos from the National Human Genome Research Institute
This site offers many videos profiling many different careers available to students studying DNA research. Interested in a career in forensics for example? Want to know what that looks like first-hand? Well, this site is the place to go! Here, students can meet Dr. Lois Tully, a forensic scientist with the U.S. Department of Justice and associate of the Human Identity Project with the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Teach.Genetics from the University of Utah

On this site you will find “a wealth of resources and information aimed at helping educators bring genetics, bioscience and health alive in the classroom.” In addition Teach.Genetics offers “tools and resources to support your curriculum, all free of charge.” An example of one lesson that you can access is a color-by-number comparison of PET scan images showing activity in a drug-free brain and the brain of a former cocaine addict.

There are many resources to answer all questions and address each need. They cover a variety of demographics and age ranges. There is for example, a high school lesson from the Biotechnology Education and Training Sequence Investment (BETSI) at Southwestern College on the amplification of Mitochondria DNA.

Sometimes the most difficult thing about walking down a career path is being confident with each step when you do not know what lies ahead. For those making this journey and the people supporting them, what makes a difference and helps to better navigate the twists and turns is the information that is available to them. The professionals in charge of each ATE program and project know this and have worked to compile all the high-quality, available resources that exist within their fields and industries. Perhaps Biotechnology is not your area of interest, but Agriculture or Information Technology is instead? Well, check out atecenters.org for information on other advanced technologies.

Discovering What is Possible in the Lab

March 3rd, 2012

Over the course of this week and next, ATETV will be looking more closely at the field of Biotechnology and its work in the lab by answering questions like, “What does a college class look like in this field?” and “What are the jobs like?” According to the Biotechnology Institute, Biotechnology is “the use of living organisms by humans” Biotechnologists look at organisms, their biochemistry, and their genes in order to create commercial products. The demand for this work is large and according to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics “… projected to grow 21 percent over the 2008—18 decade, much faster than the average for all occupations, as biotechnological research and development continues to drive job growth.”

One alluring aspect of a career as a Biotechnologist and more specifically, life in the lab, is the potential to be a part of an exciting discovery! In the future, Biotechnology could produce organisms that would generate enough energy to reduce the need for electricity, medicines to cure diseases like cancer and genetically engineered food to sustain us. Here are some of the great discoveries we found reported:

1) DNA- DNA is perhaps one of the most fundamental discoveries to further the science of Biology. It is the blueprint of biological life from its inception to its growth and till death. It is what supplies the necessary information to cells to get them to reproduce. There are many different ideas about who should get credit for finding this and regarding the circumstances of its discovery. But one thing is for sure, its discovery has not only revolutionized science and medicine but it has affected all walks of life; whether they are medical, social, legal, criminal or related to genetics and inheritance.

2) According to Discovery.com, scientists at Harvard recently discovered a way to genetically engineer an organism to sense magnetic fields. This could be invaluable for the fields of medicine and research. One example of what could be made possible from this includes targeted therapies for diseases like cancer. By delivering magnetism to certain cell types, like cancer cells, researchers could track the cells in the body using MRI, thus making treatments more effective.

3) Imagine the possibilities if bacteria could be used to boost fuel cell power? Also according to Discovery.com, researchers at Newcastle University in the U.K discovered a species of a bacteria that lives in an environment similar to that which exists about 18 miles above the earth’s surface. According to this article, this “bacteria generate current as they eat, by releasing electrons during chemical reactions.” This led scientists to test them for power generation and the results proved positive. While this method doesn’t generate a lot of power, it does produce enough to light a light bulb and presents interesting possibilities for the future of renewable energy!

4) Cloning. According to Wikipedia, “Cloning in Biology is the process of producing similar populations of genetically identical individuals that occurs in nature when organisms such as bacteria, insects or plants reproduce asexually. Cloning in Biotechnology refers to processes used to create copies of DNA fragments (molecular cloning), cells (cell cloning), or organisms.” In 1997 researchers in Scotland achieved the first successful clone of a mammal from an adult cell; a sheep named Dolly. Since that time, other reported successful attempts at cloning include another sheep named Polly, a cat in 2001 at Texas A&M University, cattle, a deer and two goats- just to name a few.

5) What if you could train your immune system to fight cancer? This is a question that researchers have been exploring and doctors have recently begun to apply to treatments. In this article in the New York Times, William Ludwig was successfully treated for Leukemia using a protocol developed from the results of these studies. Doctors “removed a billion of his T-cells — a type of white blood cell that fights viruses and tumors— and gave them new genes that would program the cells to attack his cancer. Then the altered cells were dripped back into Mr. Ludwig’s veins.” Genetically altering T-cells is a concept that was first developed in the 1980s by Dr. Zelig Eshhar at the Weizmann Institute for Science in Rehovot, Israel.

Published Biotechnology timelines like this one, further reveal that there have been many more discoveries made that are of critical importance to solving the problems we face today. It is an exciting field to be a part of not only because the possibilities are endless but also because the work is loaded with the potential to make significant impacts on our future and as a result in demand. When you break down any living organism to its smallest elements of a cell, or a DNA composition and begin to experiment with that, anything is truly possible.

More on Wireless Power

February 24th, 2012

Wireless Electricity

The most recent ATETV video introduces you to WiTricity; the Massachusetts based company known for producing wireless electricity. While you and I marvel at the possibilities, many products are already on the market and a few more are in development.

#1- Inductive Coupling
Anytime that an electrical current moves through wire, it creates a circular magnetic field around the wire. Bending this wire in a coil amplifies this field and the more loops in the coil, the bigger the field. If you then introduce a second wire into the magnetic field you have created, the electrical current will transfer. Simply put, inductive coupling then is the process of using magnetic fields to stimulate movement of a current through a wire.

According to a recent article in Fast Company Magazine, this is the first wireless powering system to market. “It looks like a mouse pad and can send power through the air, over a distance of up to a few inches. A powered coil inside that pad creates a magnetic field, which induces current to flow through a small secondary coil that’s built into any portable device, such as a flashlight, a phone, or a BlackBerry. The electrical current that then flows in that secondary coil charges the device’s onboard rechargeable battery.”

Products include:
Automotive: Companies like Powermat sell these pads and offer wireless solutions to among other industries, the automotive industry to integrate this technology into new cars. Imagine being able to recharge your cell phone, while driving simply by placing it strategically somewhere in the car itself? No cords necessary!

Flashlights: By eliminating exposed metal conductors and the need for unnecessary cords, the Reference ATEX Certified Explosion Proof Torch and Charger uses induction technology to eliminate some of the previous issues that oil and gas industry professionals previously encountered with hand held flashlights.

Cell Phones: HP has created the Palm USA using HP Touchstone Technology. “Charge on Contact. Simply. Magnetically. Intelligently.” – the Web-site announces.

#2- Radio Frequency Harvesting
While less efficient, they work across distances of up to 85 feet. In these systems, electricity is transformed into radio waves, which are transmitted across a room, then received by so-called power harvesters and translated back into low-voltage direct current. In marketable products, a transmitter plugs into the wall, and a dime-size receiver (the real innovation, costing about $5 to make) can be embedded into any low-voltage device.

Products include:
This method of transmitting wireless power is not without its problems still which makes the number of products on the market available, scarce. But at Powercast in PA, you can purchase receivers and transmitters to customize your power solutions.

In the future, this will be available to consumers in the form of a few small appliances like clocks and smoke detectors and wireless sensors; down the road, it will appear in wireless boxes into which you can toss any and all of your electronics for recharging.

#3- Magnetically Coupled Resonance
WiTricity Technology uses magnetic resonance to transfer power over large distances. Following principles similar to the idea of acoustic resonance, which allows an opera singer to break a glass across the room by vibrating it with the correct frequency of her voice’s sound waves, magnetic resonance can launch an energetic response in something far away. According to Fast Company, the difference in this case is that “the response is the flow of electricity out of the receiving coil and into the device to which it’s connected. The only caveat is that receiving coil must be properly “tuned” to match the powered coil, in the way that plucking a D string on any tuned piano will set all the D strings to vibrating, but leave all other notes still and silent.”

Products in development:
Still under wraps!

A few years ago, Marin Soljačić, an assistant professor of physics at MIT, was dragged out of bed by the insistent beeping of a cell phone. “This one didn’t want to stop until you plugged it in for charging,” says Soljačić. In his exhausted state, he wished the phone would just begin charging itself as soon as it was brought into the house. So Soljačić started searching for ways to transmit power wirelessly. His efforts are clearly paying off. While the rest of us are still contemplating the possibilities of a world without cords, batteries, plugs, etc he is one of a few select individuals that are already hard at work turning these ideas into reality. As a result, the future of the electronics industry looks pretty bright!

Meet Network Security Specialist Jerry Gamblin

February 9th, 2012

Photo of Jerry Gamblin

Do you like working with computers? Interested in both networking AND programming? Well, then a career as a Network Security Specialist might just be for you! This week, ATETV staff caught up with one in person. Jerry Gamblin works as the Network Security Specialist for the Missouri House of Representatives; a position he has been in since 2005.

Here’s what he had to say about his work:

What made you decide to pursue this as a career?
I love problem solving and there is no bigger problem in the networking field then security. Plus I really don’t like fixing printers : )

Tell us about your current position. What does a typical day look like?
I work at the Missouri House of Representatives with 163 state representatives, their legislative assistants and House staff.

It is really hard to describe a typical day but it is always going to include checking access logs, catching up on industry news and responding to emails. Then I will spend some time catching up with other people in our office about the projects they are working on and how they impact our security posture. After I get that done I am on call to help fix or answer any questions that might come up.

Also… you will get a call after hours a couple of times a week. This is NOT a 9-5 job.

Why would students today be interested in this career path?
It is a good hybrid field for students who like networking and programming. You get to use your analytical skills that programming helps to develop while being able to work on a lot of varied projects that seem to draw people to networking.

What qualities would make them successful?
You have to want to always learn. If you are not willing to completely turn over your skill set every 3-5 years this isn’t going to be the field for you. You have to spend a lot of time reading, learning and talking to your peers.

What do you see as the biggest types of security risks that they might face in their careers?
The ones they are not thinking about. Most of the time security risks come from servers that you don’t know exist or haven’t audited. That is why having a good relationship with all the members of your team is so important so you don’t get left out of the loop on projects.

What advice do you have for people considering this as a career
Learn how to communicate. Security is a lot about being able to take an abstract security idea and turn it into something that you can make your customers care about. You can have all the technical knowledge in the world but you won’t be successful until you can share it.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, to prepare for a career as a Network Security Specialists, individuals commonly earn a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information science and management information systems (MIS), but a degree in any field, supplemented with computer courses and experience, may be adequate. You can also prepare for jobs in this field by pursuing an associate degree or professional certification, along with related work experience.

And for the rest of us? Well, it is good to remember that everyone has a role to play in keeping their computer systems safe. “Security…” Jerry said in a in a recent interview with the National Conference of State Legislatures, “.. is everyone’s business.You’re just as responsible for security as your IT person. You have a link in the security chain and you can blow it up pretty quickly.” So take the time to regularly scan your computer with your anti-virus software, to continually update your passwords and to pay attention when programs ask for personal information. For these tips and more,visit the National Cyber Security Alliance.

Edible Car Contest Provides Students With Valuable Engineering Lessons

February 2nd, 2012

edible car

National Engineering Week is upon us, once again. From February 19-25 this year, the week will celebrate the positive contributions engineers make to society and is a catalyst for outreach across the country to kids and adults alike.

As part of this week, the Illinois Valley Community College (IVCC) hosts an annual competition designed to help students get a taste of engineering. This popular event, engages students of all ages in various aspects of STEM studies by bringing together groups to craft and develop model cars that are judged on design, speed, and creativity, among other categories.

And, as the name reveals, what makes this program unique is that all of the automotive entries are made entirely of edible food.

“We knew that designing vehicles from food would challenge students to solve problems and be creative, skills that are critical in [the field of] engineering,” IVCC’s Dorene Perez recently told mywebtimes.com. As Program Coordinator of Computer Aided Engineering and Design at IVCC, Perez is one of the contest organizers who first introduced the event to IVCC in 2006. Since then, the IVCC team has not only overseen seven contests (winning entries have included a cucumber-based vehicle that broke track records for speed and a Twinkie-mobile that nabbed design kudos) but have gone on to put together a “how to” handbook and led national workshops to encourage and assist other educators and schools in developing and launching their own Edible Car Contests. Besides cucumbers and Twinkies, car bodies entered in the contest have been constructed from hot dogs, ice cream cones and a loaf of bread, while wheels have been crafted from pinwheel pasta, cookies, Moon Pies and carrot pieces.

The contest has included as many as 130 students on 35 different teams, providing a wide range of learning opportunities, from calculating ratios, wheel sizes, body size and weight for the vehicle to calculating the car’s cost effectiveness and determining its nutritional value. Following the contest’s conclusion, students analyze and discuss both why the car performed as it did in speed or distance and how these features could have been improved.

Whether it’s velocity, acceleration or nutrition, the opportunity to introduce theoretical concepts is a key component of the event. Assessments have included the wheel performance of the Oreo cookie and the aerodynamic properties of miniature marshmallows. (Student designers of last year’s winning entry in the speed category, the aforementioned cucumber model, gained a significant advantage by keeping the car’s peppermint stick axels wrapped in plastic to protect them from moisture until racing time. They also made use of cooking spray on the axels go gain their final competitive edge.)

IVCC has been nominated for a prestigious 2012 Bellwether Award for the Edible Car Contest. The national award recognizes outstanding and innovative community college programs. The award finalists were recognized at the Community College Futures Assembly in Orlando, Florida just last weekend. The 2012 Edible Car Contest will be held at IVCC on February 22.

ATE Programs Are Built On Collaboration

January 29th, 2012

By now, you have undoubtedly heard the name Jackie Bray. She is the single Mom from Charlotte, North Carolina that President Obama identified on Tuesday night in his State of the Union Address. Jackie had lost her job as a mechanic. What happened next is a strong example of the partnerships happening between community colleges and industries all around the country. According to President Obama, the company Siemens “opened a gas turbine factory in Charlotte, and formed a partnership with Central Piedmont Community College” Siemens worked with the college to design courses in laser and robotics training, paid Jackie’s tuition, and hired her to help operate their plant.

Shifts in the economy, changing workforce demands, the growing need to provide widespread access to up to date skills and the unique position of community colleges to meet the demands of their individual regions is what has driven these partnerships with the private sector. And perhaps nowhere have these partnerships been more successful than in the already established practices of Advanced Technological Education programs around the country.

In building a successful partnership, consider the following five factors from the UCLA Community College Review:

1. Recognize a local/regional economic development challenge that calls for collaborative attention

Through regular conversations that identify common interests or community concerns civic leaders, industry representatives and community college administrators can formulate plans to address them. For example, at South Carolina Advanced Technological Education Center (SCATE), they facilitate this through the establishment of an Industry Consortium. Established in 1996, this model “provides a framework for colleges and their business/industry partners to work together to ensure a highly skilled technical workforce.”

2. Establish a shared mission and goals

The Laramie County Community College and officials of Wyoming for example share a common goal for increasing business opportunities in their region. On a national level, the Obama administration has set a goal to increase the amount of power generated from the wind to 20% by 2030. In Wyoming, wind reaches 30 to 40 mph with gusts of 50 or 60 mph. It is an ideal place to generate electricity from it and thus it presents a viable industry for the state’s future economy. Local communities therefore are very involved with the Wind Energy industry and working to incorporate it into their workforce. In response, Laramie County Community College in partnership with industry representatives at companies like Duke Energy Generation Services has created a successful, related degree program which was profiled in ATETV Episode 46.

3. Ensure that value is achieved for all partners (including students)

To ensure that a partnership is successful, community colleges working with private industry must identify the benefits up front, provide regular opportunities to reassess them and be flexible enough to change them when industry demands. Because all ATE Centers are created as cooperative efforts in which two-year colleges work with four-year colleges and universities, secondary schools, business, industry, and government, they’re organized to function this way from the start. Their programs are all designed to always be mutually beneficial. According to the NSF, these programs include: development of resources, such as high-quality programs and curricula that reflect the modern technological workplace, the training and placement of both mentors and interns, and the on-going evaluation of the center’s materials and services and their impact on student learning, and on employers and the institutions that manage the center.

4. Have strong executive leadership from both the college and industry participants

Every ATE National Center has organizational leadership that works to establish the initial vision, goals, and values that will inform all subsequent decisions. These leaders often include both industry and education professionals. SpaceTec, the National Science Foundation’s Center for Aerospace Technical Education in Florida, for example, has a “SpaceTec Partners, Inc Board”, which is comprised of representatives that include the President of Brevard Community College as well as the Director of Florida Operations at the Bionetics Corporation.

5. Develop a governance and accountability mechanisms

Advanced Technological Education programs achieve this in many ways. One example is by establishing a National Visiting Committee. At Florida Advanced Technological Education Center (FL-ATE), their committee is made up of leaders in industry, education, workforce and economic development from across the nation, with local representation. Committee members meet regularly with Fl-ATE staff to ensure stated goals and objectives are met.

To create a similar partnership in your community to the one mentioned in the State of the Union Address, you have only to look as far as an ATE Center for help. Advanced Technological Education programs have a successful track record with this work that reflects the benefits of such collaborations. It is because of this, that students get exposure to a wide range of technologies and will graduate with the experience they require to make them highly marketable.

What Does Your Web Identity Reveal?

January 19th, 2012

web identity lock
When was the last time you completed a Web engine search on your name? It is not something one thinks of doing regularly, yet it could make all the difference in one’s future. This week’s ATETV video reveals the importance of monitoring your online identity when it comes to your professional goals and objectives. There is a large amount of data available out there. Does the information available about you say what you want it to say to a potential employer or current boss? If not, don’t despair. From platforms to strategies, there are ways you can manage the situation.

#1. Take charge of your own identity.
Matt Ivester, an author on helping students manage their online reputations, recommends that everyone get in the habit of thinking carefully from the very beginning about the information he or she is comfortable sharing online. He also recommends conducting inventories or searches on your name and cleaning up the content you can control. Other tips include claiming your name as a .com url and on all the popular sites like Twitter. Matt suggests continually updating your privacy settings and taking advantage of tools like “Google alerts” to notify yourself anytime your name or other specified content appears on the Web.

#2. Use an Online Identity Management Service.
In the article, 25+ Ways to Manage Your Online Identity, the folks at Mashable identify 8 sites created to help in this capacity. ClaimID.com for example consolidates all the information you find on the web and makes it easy to “claim” only the good stuff in order to create a profile you will then want to share with others.

#3. Add Web content to improve your existing reputation.
According to a recent article in Forbes, search engines like Google rank information according to “relevance–how closely it resembles the search term–and popularity–how many other sites are linking to it.” In the event you can’t get the information removed, the authors of this article recommend that you “overwhelm the bad content with the good, so that the embarrassing links are less likely to rank high.” Some ways to do this include: using free software such as Wordpress to create a blog revealing your expertise, writing as a guest author on professional blogs, adding comments to existing web content and creating profiles on sites such as LinkedIn.

#4. Hire a company to manage your reputation.
Mashable lists 5 such groups for your reference. For a monthly fee (starting at $10), Reputation.com, for example scours the Web for content about a client and presents a report. For an extra fee, the client can request that some of the information be removed.

#5. Simplify the information you volunteer.
Web-sites such as Profileomat.com allow you to centralize your different profile content by listing all your personal Websites, Social Networks, Blogs, Contact Info, Photo Albums and other Profiles in one unique profile.

A recent survey conducted by Microsoft of 1200 human relations managers revealed that as many as 70% have rejected job applicants because of information they find online. Recruiters said they search for information about candidates through search engines, on social networking sites, personal Web sites and blogs, gaming sites, online classified sites and through professional background checkers. What are the top things that influence them? Data on Lifestyle, inappropriate written texts and inappropriate photos top the list. These are simple sources to modify. By paying closer attention and using the tools available, you can ensure that your online presence only has a positive impact on your career!