Archive for June, 2010

ATETV Episode 40: A Closer Look at 3D Design, Data Storage and Drug Development

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

This week, we focus on three of today’s fast-growing industries – Rapid Manufacturing, Information Technology and Biomanufacturing.

In our first segment, we visit Saddleback College where students in the Rapid Manufacturing program are turning their two-dimensional ideas into intricate 3D product prototypes.

“The equipment you see in the school’s laboratory is the same equipment used by industry,” says Saddleback’s Ed Tackett. And it’s the program’s hands-on approach to education and training that has proven critical to its success.

“We let [students] make mistakes,” adds Ken Patton. “That way they learn and they don’t forget.” That’s especially important to today’s employers, as companies work to bring their high-end manufacturing design and tooling back from overseas.

“We’ve had offers from companies to hire our entire class sight unseen because of our approach to teaching technicians how to work in an industrial environment,” says Ken. “Part of the fun and excitement we have is the ‘wow’ factor every time we walk into the lab.”

Information Technology is another industry where jobs are growing rapidly – even exponentially — as we learn in our second segment.

“Anybody who needs to keep data – which is just about everybody nowadays – are our customers,” explains Todd Matthews of EMC Corporation, one of the world’s largest data storage companies. So whether it’s banking records, medical information or online photos and e-mail accounts, or any of the myriad data we use each day, it all has to be stored – and stored securely.

And, says Todd, this is only the beginning. “More digital data will be created in the next two years than was produced in the last 10. Wouldn’t you want to be working in that type of industry? It’s growing exponentially.” Wow, that’s an impressive statistic.

Finally, the week’s third segment explores pharmaceutical development, another fast-growing industry. And, as Great Bay Community College student Matthew Dobben explains, the process required to bring a new drug to market begins with Biomanufacturing, a specialized type of manufacturing technology used to produce biological agents.

“In this lab, we produce the proteins that are used by the pharmaceuticals to create drugs,” says Matthew, who is enrolled in Great Bay’s Biomanufacturing Technology program. “[And this other] area involves recombinant DNA technology, while next door we research and use a process known as chromatography, which is purification.”

The highly technical skill sets needed to produce these biological materials require careful organization and attention to detail. But, as Matthew notes, it all begins with a love of science. “You need to know what you’re talking about [when] you’re considering millions of dollars worth of [new] drugs.” Wow – that’s a great challenge and tremendous responsibility.

ATETV and the Telly Awards

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

Behind the Scenes of the Award-Winning ATETV!

Today, we go behind the scenes of ATETV to talk with the series Creator and Executive Producer Anthony Manupelli. Besides learning more about how the ATETV series was developed and what makes it tick, we had an ulterior motive — to congratulate Anthony and the production team on this week’s announcement that the Web series has won three Telly Awards!

The annual Telly Awards were founded in 1978 to honor outstanding local, regional and cable TV commercials and programs, as well as video and productions and online film and video. The competition received more than 13,000 entries (from all 50 states and five continents) for this year’s competition. ATETV received Bronze Tellys in three categories: Education Film/Video Production; Education Internet/Online Programs; and Education Internet/Online Video.

We caught up with Anthony at Pellet Productions, a production company outside Boston, and though he was happy to talk with us about ATETV, he was too modest to brag about the Telly Awards. So we decided to do the bragging for him!

Congratulations on these terrific awards, I understand that the mission of the awards is to “strengthen the visual arts community by inspiring, promoting, and supporting creativity” and that judges are the creative professionals who have previously won Tellys themselves and are peers within the industry.

Thanks. Yes, it’s an honor to be recognized by our peers and an honor to be recognized for such a worthwhile project.

Tell us a little bit about how ATETV originated.

Several years ago while at WGBH-TV (Boston’s PBS affiliate) I was producing a series called Pathways to Technology which profiled students and showcased some of the technological programs at community colleges across the country. This was a real eye-opener for me. I’d had no idea of the incredible resources and the sophisticated technologies that community colleges had to offer. I didn’t realize that the community colleges routinely partnered with industry, and I was especially impressed with the teachers’ dedication.

But it seemed like more people needed to know that these amazing programs existed. Even though the federal government’s Advanced Educational Technology (ATE) initiative was launched more than 20 years ago, some of the participating students didn’t even realize they were in ATE programs! So, in designing ATETV, our goal was to make the invisible visible, and show prospective students what community colleges really looked like and to demonstrate that community colleges were a viable educational option. We also wanted to profile the workplaces so they could see that working in a plant didn’t mean being on a boring assembly line — we wanted to show how dynamic the work environments were, and we wanted people to be able to see the amazing robotics and other sophisticated technologies that are in today’s technological workplaces.

How did you decide on the program’s format?

From continuous research, the Association for Interactive Media Education (AIME) and Pellet Productions,Inc. knew that our primary audience -– prospective students and others in the community college world -– get much of their information through the Internet. So whether they’re on a computer, or on a cell phone, an I-phone or now an I-Pad, they’re looking for dynamic, visually appealing information that’s easy to digest in a short period of time and points them to additional resources if they want. This format also enables the colleges to download the content from the Web so that they can use it on their own websites.

What about content, how did you decide what subject areas to focus on?

We did a lot of testing, conducted focus groups and worked closely with our advisory board to design stories that would be representative of the diverse student populations, the numerous technological programs and the many career opportunities that ATE programs offer. As a result, we highlighted some great subjects – Laser Technology, Wind Farms, Women in Aviation, Video Game Design, Biotechnology Internships, Environmental Technology – to name a few. Among other things, we learned that Green Technologies were really taking off, so a lot of our emphasis has been on these up-and-coming “green” careers.

What do you think makes ATETV unique?

First, it is story. We have searched the country and found people who have very real, compelling stories to tell. We also have very strong visuals to support their stories. From underwater ROVs to wind turbines, the field footage imagery we captured for this series is amazing. These videos show firsthand the incredible work coming out of the 2 year colleges.

Another aspect of ATETV we think is particularly important is collaboration: We share the videos not only with the people who we’ve videotaped, but with other people in the ATE community so they can share their input with us and assist with fact-checking to make sure that everything in our scripts is accurate. Then we work with our advisers and with the sites and then go back and tweak the content based on their input — nothing is done in a vacuum. We’re especially careful about all of our content because these are essentially living resumes that we’re documenting.

Another really cool, yet geeky, aspect of the series is that we maxed out on the latest technologies to produce a 48 episode video series within budget. From cameras to software, we used every tool available in producing this series.

What feedback have you received so far on the programs?

It’s been really positive, people seem really happy. When
we first began the project it was hard to get the colleges and individuals to sign on to participate — everyone was so busy, they didn’t feel they could devote the time to the project. But now that they’ve seen the videos, word has been spreading and lots of people now want to be a part of the project. We’re really pleased with the response.

ATETV Episode 39: Helping to Shape Technologies of the Future

Monday, June 21st, 2010

This week, we look at how Advanced Technological Education programs not only enable students to craft their own futures, but also help them to shape the future of emerging technologies .

We begin with our first segment at Florence -Darlington Technical College, where John Evans, a graduate of the school’s Electrical Engineering program, credits his ATE education with providing him with the valuable first-hand experience that led to his current job as a technician at ESAB Welding and Cutting Center.

As John notes, his everyday work routine includes “a lot of math, a lot of calculating, a lot of formulas in order to [determine] the voltages you need. This [requires a particular] way of thinking and troubleshooting.”

Through his training at Florence-Darlington, including a hands-on internship, John was able to acquire the demanding skill set that the position requires. “If I didn’t go to school, there would be no way that I could just come out here and do what I’m doing now and at [this] level,” he notes. “A person couldn’t come in off the street and [do this job].” Of particular value, he says, was the “double dose” of experience he received throughout his school program, as he gained classroom experience in the mornings and headed off to an internship in the afternoons where he applied the skills he’d mastered in the classroom.

In our second segment, we learn that employers in Alternative Energy fields are also looking to hire well-rounded individuals.

“What I’m looking for is students with initiative and ambition and smarts who are going to fit into areas like technicians and service personnel, and installation personnel,” explains Mark Fleiner of Rolls Royce Fuel Cell Systems. “[I need] people who have good hands, good minds, who don’t need a lot of direction, who can see things [for themselves] and are willing to [actively] participate, maybe say, ‘Hey, we could do it better this way.’”

Within these numerous Alternative Energy fields — Solar, Wind, Hydrogen, and Fuel Cell Technology, for example — there is plenty of room for students to make their own mark. “These educational programs are very flexible, very adaptable,” explains Diane Auer Jones of The Washington Campus. “[Today's technological education programs] have the ability to really figure out where the workforce needs are for both today and tomorrow and are able to address those needs very quickly.”

And, as we learn in our third segment, one thriving example of alternative energy is Fuel Cell Technology. This efficient and environmentally friendly source of power offers a wide range of applications for our society — and a wide range of career opportunities for tomorrow’s technology students.

As Rolls Royce’s Mark Fleiner notes, “Fuel cells basically can be applied anywhere that power is being used.” So, whether energy is required to move an automobile, to light up a building or put electricity on the grid, or to power a ship or airplane, fuel cells can fit the bill.

The end result: A healthy environmental footprint. “Right now, with our world’s increasing population, the burden on natural resources — crude oil, coal — is [rapidly] increasing ,” explains Pallavi Pharkya of Contained Energy, LLC. “Our [fuel cell] technology would help ease that burden. Energy is a global issue.”

Or, as her colleague Benjamin Emley puts it, “Fuel cells are the future.”

Environmental Engineering Makes the “Best Careers” List

Friday, June 18th, 2010

US News BlogThis week, we heard from students and educators in the Environmental Technology/Environmental Science program at Cape Cod Community College, who are excited about the future of the field. And guess what? So is U.S. News & World Report!

In the magazine’s annual listing of the 50 best careers of 2010, “Environmental Engineering Technician” made the cut. Here’s what U.S. News had to say: “Demand for environmental engineering technicians is expected to increase significantly, with employment jumping 30 percent from 2008 to 2018.” And they note that a growing number of these “foot soldiers in the war against environmental hazards” will be needed to ensure compliance with environmental regulations.

Okay, this is interesting, but how can you learn more about the environment in general, the day-to-day responsibilities of an environmental technician and where, exactly, the jobs are?

Start with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a comprehensive overview of environmental issues, including water, air, climate, waste and pollution and green living.

Then, once you’ve got the “big picture” check out the website of the Occupational Outlook Handbook on the website of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here, you’ll find in-depth descriptions of various “environmental technicians” jobs, including overviews describing the work environment (will you be working indoors or outdoors?) the nature of the work,(examples of day-to-day responsibilities — setting up, operating and maintaining laboratory instruments or gathering and analyzing samples), education and training requirements, opportunities for advancement, and a breakdown of the projected jobs and earnings. The site also provides comparisons of related occupations and resources for additional information.

Finally, you can check out websites like the Green Collar Association and EcoOrg, both of which feature listings of “green collar jobs,” defined as those that provide a positive environmental impact.

Seems like what’s good for the environment is also good for the economy — that’s a win-win situation!

ATETV Episode 38: Industry Takes Notice

Monday, June 14th, 2010

This week, we visit an international robotics competition where employers are scouting for talent and we learn how industry input is helping Environmental Technology students to graduate “job-ready.”

In our first segment, we check in at the MATE International ROV Competition, where Marine Technology students are designing and building intricate remotely operated vehicles, often known as underwater robots. And industry is paying attention.

“Our company uses this competition as a scouting maneuver,” says Nancy Fletcher of Ocean Works International. She explains that by observing students at work during the competition, she gets to see firsthand how they deal with a variety of issues and how they react under pressure. “This competition gives us an opportunity to collect resumes from young engineers [and technicians] so that we can be first to snatch them up [when they graduate.] We see the future of our industry right here.”

Nancy’s Ocean Works colleague Richard Gage agrees that there’s no shortage of jobs available for talented individuals. “There are a lot of opportunities [in Marine Technology fields] right now. Just in my company alone I hear all the time that ROV pilots are in short supply, divers are in short supply and engineers are in short supply.”

Student Jonathan Terry is one of the talented individuals taking part in the MATE competition and he’s excited about his future prospects. “I love this field. I want to keep pursuing my education in this field and I’m definitely hoping to work in the field. I’ve always been drawn to the water…so I’m hoping to continue in that direction.”

In our second segment, we learn about Environmental Technology, another up-and-coming field that provides its employees with the opportunity to get out of the office and work outdoors. “Environmental Science encompasses many things,” explains Stephanie Brady, Senior Special Coordinator for Environmental Technology at Cape Cod Community College. “It’s science, it’s technology-based, it’s learning about politics. It’s a lot of different disciplines [within the broad field of Environmental Technology.]”

D-Jay Laffoon enjoys his classroom work but says that what he likes the best about the program is the opportunity to be outdoors collecting data, such as well water samples. “There is definitely a lot of hands-on [instruction] that teaches you to use equipment and prepares you for the workplace.”

With input from an advisory board made up of industry experts, as well as classroom instructors who currently work in the Environmental Industry, the Environmental Technology program at Cape Cod Community College is actively preparing students for future careers.

“What I hear from the companies that hire our students is that they like the fact that they’re job-ready [from Day One]” says Stephanie. “[Students are] familiar with the instrumentation, they have the necessary math skills, they have writing skills, oral communication skills.”

So whether it’s Marine Technology or Environmental Technology, when it comes to their future careers it sounds to us like these students are ready to dive right in!

Building A Biotech Career, One DNA Strand At a Time

Thursday, June 10th, 2010
DNA Strand from the U.S. Library of Medicine

DNA Strand from the U.S. Library of Medicine

DNA is the basic building block of life, and these days, it’s also the building block for many a job in the Biotechnology industry. Ever since the launch of the Human Genome project (the massive effort to identify all human genes) in 2003, the fields of Biotechnology and life sciences have been booming, with a broad spectrum of career opportunities waiting to be filled by skilled technicians, as we heard in this week’s episode.

Today, the foundation for these important jobs is laid in high school, with the National Science Education Standards emphasizing a curriculum that includes a working knowledge of the life sciences — including the structure and function of DNA.

But, what exactly, is DNA? It stands for deoxyribonucleic acid and in the simplest of terms, it is the hereditary material in most all living creatures, including humans and is found in every cell in the body. Because DNA is a “double helix,” it has the unique ability to replicate, or make copies of itself; consequently when our cells divide, each new cell is able to have an exact copy of the DNA present in the old cell. For that reason, TV crime shows often refer to DNA as a “genetic fingerprint.”

Check out the Genetics Science Learning Center at the University of Utah for activities and information that teach the nuts and bolts of DNA and genetics, including a primer on heredity and an overview of cells.

How does this translate to jobs? According to the U.S. Human Genome Management Information System, DNA and genomics offer almost limitless career opportunities. For example, genetic data is leading to new applications in medicine including everything from genetic counseling to vaccine development and pharmaceutical careers. To learn how to prepare for a career in the biosciences and Biotechnology field, along with a guide to specific career areas, visit here.

You can also find job descriptions of a wide variety of Biotech careers including laboratory technicians, metrology specialists and software development analysts (to name just a few) at BioLink- The National Advanced Technology Education Center focused on Biotechnology.

And if you need just more inspiration, consider this excerpt from a speech made by President Barack Obama last November as he described the future of the U.S. economy: “I’m committed to moving our country from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math education over the next decade…This is probably going to make more of a difference in determining how well we do as a country than just about anything else that we do.” From classroom to career, don’t overlook that Biology homework!

ATETV Episode 37: Careers in Telecom and Biotech are Booming

Monday, June 7th, 2010

This week, we hear from employers and educators in two of today’s fastest growing industries — Biotechnology and Telecommunications — and learn how they are working together to prepare students to emerge as tomorrow’s technicians.

In our first segment, we head to San Diego, a hub of the country’s Biotech industry, where Southwestern Community College is working hand-in-hand with area Biotechnology companies to design the curriculum and develop the classroom skills that will enable students to launch Biotech careers as soon as they graduate.

“We have over 500 Biotechnology companies here in San Diego, and all are in need of entry level technicians,” explains Southwestern’s Nouna Bakhiet, PhD. She adds that when the school’s Biotechnology program was first created in 1999, Southwestern reached out to industry to learn about its specific needs, which enabled them to carefully design the program’s course content. Over the years,industry has come in to co-teach some of the program’s Biotech courses, providing students with firsthand instruction in specific applications. The end result: Students emerge from the program armed with experience and ready to go — many of them actually become managers within only two years of their hire.

In our second segment, we hear about another program that is also preparing students to hit the ground running — this time in the rapidly growing and changing field of Telecommunications. “[Today's Telecom industry] encompasses many things,” explains Andrew Maynard of Springfield Technical Community College. “It encompasses networking, it encompasses computer programming, [it encompasses] web programming.” In fact, the Telecom world today is actually a convergence of Information Technology (IT) and Telecommunications, as the use of voice and data are becoming one.

And, as Springfield student Steven Worthing tells us, the school’s relationship with the Telecom industry has provided him with the hands-on experience that is critical for success in such a rapidly changing industry. “I studied a broad course in Computer System Engineering Technology,” explains Steven. But he says that his experience working as a part-time computer telephone technician repairing telephone lines for CRA has really given him the edge when it comes to mastering the skills needed for the field.

“CRA is a nine-year old company, serving the small- and mid-sized business, helping them to successfully navigate working with the telephone companies,” explains CRA’s Laura Bernstein. “We find that [this type of Telecom training] is rare, so we reached out to Springfield Technical Community College to find students that seem to have the predisposition to be good [at this field] and the students seem to be very excited about the opportunity.”

It’s a good match all the way around notes Springfield’s Andrew Maynard. “It’s really nice [for our students] as they’re out there competing for jobs. Not only do they have a degree, but they can demonstrate that they went the extra distance and gained experience, which really shows a certain level of commitment…and understanding of the subject matter. It’s helped many of our students gain employment.”

Help Wanted: Automotive and Aviation Technicians

Friday, June 4th, 2010

Automotive and aviation industries are major engines powering today’s economy. Here, we take a look at some of the opportunities available to automotive and aviation technicians in the state of South Carolina, the headquarters of numerous industry leaders.

South Carolina’s knowledge economy is based upon the synergistic automotive (BMW, Michelin, Honda, BOSCH) and aviation (Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Honeywell, GE Aviation) industries, both of which have seen explosive growth over the past decade and both of which require similar technical skills. Most importantly, the automotive/aviation technician skill set is portable, so multiple career options for students are available.

Employment opportunities for both automotive and aviation technicians are expected to continue to grow most rapidly in the Southeastern United States, specifically in South Carolina. It’s estimated that the state currently needs 2,000 to 5,000 automotive technicians, and this figure is expected to increase as the number of vehicles and their complexity increase. (Projected growth for automotive technician occupations in S.C. is expected to be eight percent for the period 2008 to 2012.) Entry-level automotive technicians, with skills similar to a computer programmer, earn between $20,000 and $25,000 annually. Experienced technicians average between $35,000 and $50,000 annually, with specialists, such as transmission and drivability technicians, making substantially more.

The state is also an automotive manufacturing leader, with more than one in six employees working in 200 automotive-related companies. In fact, this industry accounts for the largest share of capital investment and jobs in the state, constituting 32.3 percent of all investment and 18.1 percent of jobs, or $3 billion capital investment and 11,000 automotive jobs created since 2000. This concentration of both original equipment manufacturers and suppliers makes S.C. a driving force behind the Southeast’s automotive industry: S.C. companies created 3,200 automotive industry jobs with a total of $4 million in capital investment in 2007, 2,400 automotive jobs in 2008, and $2.38 billion in 2009. Global demand for $13.9 billion in South Carolina-produced manufactured goods generates nearly 118,000 jobs, and one in three jobs in transportation equipment manufacturing are supported by exports.

Aviation/Aerospace Technology also has a prominent role in the S.C. economy with more than 100 aviation-related companies providing aviation maintenance, repair, aircraft modifications, and Dreamliner (Boeing 787) fuselage construction (current) and airliner assembly (2011). All of these industries will need additional workers to continue this expansion. Projected growth for aerospace technicians is also expected to be brisk. Aerospace jobs comprise 2.5% of all total jobs with an average wage of $41,621 annually.

You can learn about technical job opportunities in your own geographic region by visiting your local community college or exploring the ATETV website. Like the automotive and aviation technicians in the South Carolina area, you too can be in the driver’s seat!