Archive for October, 2010

The Value of Internships in Process Technology

Friday, October 29th, 2010

The transformation of raw materials into useful everyday products — be they building materials or jet fuel, metals or plastics — relies on the process of Process Technology. In this week’s Episode, we revisit the College of the Mainland, in Texas City, Texas, where we originally met student Zachary Bundy, who is enrolled in the college’s two-year Process Technology Associate’s degree program. In addition to classroom instruction, Zachary completed 300 hours of internship work experience — or as he puts it, a “two or three-month long interview that gives [the employer] the chance to get to really get to know [the employee].” The internship experience also gave Zachary a chance to earn a good salary — better than $30 an hour — and get a crash course in this challenging field.

ATETV adviser Jerry Duncan of the Center for the Advancement of Process Technology (CAPT) at the College of the Mainland, agrees that internships provide a great opportunity for student and employer alike. “Internships allow the student to actually experience what it’s like to be a process technician, and allow the company the opportunity to see how a student performs as a potential employee,” he notes, adding that internships are becoming more popular in the process industries.

Here, Jerry answered some questions for us about internships.

Why should a student pursue an internship?

Internships are a great educational experience. The student gets to experience the job environment and perform the job under the guidance of a experienced employees. Process technology programs can impart the technical knowledge of the job in the classroom, but they cannot impart what it is like to live and work the job on a daily basis. Internships, therefore, give students insights into their future careers. In some cases this furthers their enthusiasm to finish their degrees. In other cases, some students actually decide not to enter the field.

Will an internship extend a student’s graduation date?

This depends on the employer’s requirements. Many of the employers will work with the college to minimize the impact of the internship on the graduation date. In some areas, such as offshore work, students work two weeks on and two weeks off. This makes it difficult for the student to attend classes during the internship.

How many Process Technology students get internships?

National data from over 30 Process Technology programs shows that around 40 percent of all Process Technology graduates participate in some type of intern experience. This may range from a full semester’s work to several weeks during a semester or summer break. Internships are heavily dependent on the partnership the community college forms with their local industries. Some colleges offer no internships, while others have all of their students participate in an internship program. In many programs, students must apply and pass a test, as well as an interview, to be accepted into an internship program.

Do all employers of Process Technology students offer internships?

Unfortunately, they do not. Business concerns, future hiring trends, and the company culture all play roles in internship offerings. There are many more job openings than there are Process Technology graduates. Naturally every company wants to hire the “best” student. An internship gives the company an opportunity to recruit and retain the best students. As a result, more and more companies are jumping on the internship band wagon. The original internship program at the College of the Mainland started out with only two internships. Now we are up to 28 and another company has just contacted us about offering internships to an additional 20 students each year.

Will students get hired after completing their internships?

Most likely, they will be hired, although it is not a guarantee. Employers often treat an internship as an extended job interview. Employers are looking for people who have the required technical knowledge and the right interpersonal skills for the company. Sometimes it just does not work out. Perhaps the student finds out they do not like the working conditions, the culture of the company, or perhaps they decide to continue their education.

What do you tell students who do not get hired?

It is not the end of the world. First and foremost, an internship is an educational experience. I tell them that they have been able to actually experience what it is like to work in the Process Technology industry and this gives them an advantage over all of the other students that did not get an internship opportunity. I also tell them that this can be used to their advantage in future job interviews, since prospective employers will know that they had this valuable experience.

Agricultural Geospatial Technology

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

FarmerWhat is Geospatial Data?

In this week’s Episode of ATETV, we were re-introduced to Dan Miller, a student at Kirkwood Community College, studying Precision Agriculture and Agricultural Geospatial Technology.

According to the Kirkwood website, “Agricultural Geospatial Technology students prepare to work in the emerging geospatial technology industry…The two-year program includes courses in computers, GPS, ArcView and data collection, in addition to agronomy and agriculture economics.”

As part of this program, Dan is taking a class called Geospatial Data Collection, which introduces students to GPS and spatial data, and the many applications these technologies have in the field of agriculture.

GPS or Global Positioning Systems are an integral part of today’s farming industry. The technologies, which pinpoint locations via satellite-based remote sensors to within a meter of any given location, help farmers adjust for the fact that any area of land can contain wide variations in soil types, nutrient availability, erosion and soil moisture..

And as Dan and other Kirkwood students are learning through their own “real-world” projects, there are ample ways to apply these geospatial data collection processes. Here are some of their projects, described in students’ own words:

Produce Relocation. “Our family operates a vegetable farm for which we provide produce for many local grocery stores [as well as] for Wal-Mart. In the past, record-keeping has been through paper hand-drawn maps. But this paper method makes it difficult to manage fertilizer, yield and pest-control systems. [My project] will determine where the best place to plant is to plant our vegetables next year…through soil sampling, making boundaries and recording past plantings.”

Addressing the Iowa Flood. “I’m going to plot out corn crops in areas that were affected by the recent floods in Iowa. I hope to document the area lost to the flood and identify problems with areas that remain as crop ground.”

Creating a Map of Iowa Lake. “I am going to be working with the staff of Iowa Lake [to create] a detailed map for use by fishermen. I will walk around the lake and get a boundary layer and will use my boat to map and identify structures with the lake. I also will be laying a grid over the lake of 10-yard by 10-yard squares and taking the depth of the water.”

Dan Miller told ATETV that he’d like to take his GPS experience back to his own family’s farm. But as he also notes, his Geospatial Data Collection class has opened his eyes to other job options as well – for example, positions in the fields of construction or natural resources, or other positions in the agricultural industry.

To learn more about precision farming and GPS applications, check out this backgrounder from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Community College Summit

Friday, October 15th, 2010

The White House Summit on Community Collegescollege

Last week, the inaugural Summit on Community Colleges was held at the White House, helping to draw attention to a valuable educational resource. As Dr. Jill Biden noted in the program’s opening remarks, “[Community colleges serve as] an important next step in our [nation’s] efforts to meet the President’s goal of having the best-educated, most competitive workforce in the world by the end of this decade.”

Community colleges are an American invention that were first introduced nearly 100 years ago to help broaden educational opportunities. According to the American Association of Community Colleges,
as of the Fall 2007, a total of 7.4 million individuals were enrolled in credit programs at 1,165 community colleges nationwide. Forty percent were attending on a full-time basis; 60 percent attended part-time.

Here’s what President Barack Obama had to say in his remarks at the Summit, “[Community colleges] are places where workers can gain new skills to move up in their careers. These are places where anyone with a desire to learn and to grow can take a chance on a brighter future for themselves and their families – whether that’s a single mom, or a returning solider, or an aspiring entrepreneur.”

We didn’t have to venture further than this week’s ATETV Episode to find a great example of these very circumstances: Laramie County Community College student Stacy Brandt is enrolled in the school’s Wind Energy Technology Program. Stacy was a stay-at-home mom for eight years, but as she told ATETV, she needed to go back to work following her divorce and was looking for a career with a future.

“I don’t fit in the box,’” Stacy explained. “I love the hands-on aspects of working on the wind turbines…and I think if you have a job that is also your interest, even your passion, then it makes it easy to get up in the morning.” Plus, she adds, “My son is now 9. He thinks what his Mom is doing is cool.”

Writing about the White House Summit, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan noted, “Community colleges have never been more important. They are educating the workforce of the future – the radiologic technicians; the registered nurses; the installation experts on solar and wind power; the IT and cyber-security technicians; the displaced workers in need of retraining and new careers; and scientists and other professionals.”

Check out the ATETV Archives to learn about these and other offerings at community colleges around the country, and hear from other students about their experiences. We think you’ll find that community colleges provide lots of cool options.

The Next Big Thing in Precision Agriculture

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Farming

Precision Agriculture Keeps Pace With Telematics Technology

Last winter, we wrote about Precision Agriculture, the use of technology to understand and manage variability in fields and crops. Precision Agriculture helps farmers save time and reduce costs, and also plays a key role in reducing the environmental impacts of farming by lowering chemical use, and reducing pollution and runoff.

This week’s Episode revisits the subject of Precision Agriculture, and so we decided to do the same. We learned that the specialty that some say could be “the next big thing” in Precision Agriculture is called Telemetry. Also known as Telematics, it’s a Communications Technology that relies on a central computer server to both capture and report information from a remote location, enabling users to monitor critical operating conditions from a location five miles away — or even on the other side of the world.

Telemetry systems are already being used in other industries – including transportation, construction and mining – making them ripe for adoption in the field of Agriculture. (Perhaps the best known telemetry system currently in use in the United States is OnStar, which makes use of cellular communications, GPS satellites and operations data to link automobiles to a central computer server and service center. It’s estimated that in an average month, the OnStar system unlocks more than 60,000 car doors and coordinates 2,000 automatic crash responses.)

Agricultural telemetry systems are based on the same basic technologies as OnStar, but instead of relaying information to a service center operator, information is delivered via Web sites.The information flow is supplemented by automated cell phone/e-mail and text alerts, which are made when preset alarms go off, alerting the farmer to engine error codes, required maintenance or low fuel tank levels, for example.

An article on PrecisionAg.com states that by incorporating advanced GPS Technology, wireless communication and Web-based equipment management software, growers gain instant access to key information about their farm equipment, including location, fuel consumption, speed and direction, and potential maintenance issues. Growers also gain the ability to manage their business from inside their homes, and to connect wirelessly via computer from a piece of farm equipment. And according to Farm Industry News, two-way telemetry systems that allow engine electronics to be automatically diagnosed and fixed remotely are already a reality.

Stay tuned – while farmers aren’t likely to be driving tractors by remote control in the immediate future, the rapidly evolving field of telematics technology could one day make this scenario a reality!

ATE Central – A Wealth of Information

Friday, October 1st, 2010

This week, ATETV adviser Nouna Bakhiet from Southwestern College in San Diego, described an ATE Program that’s helping to launch students into the Biotechnology field — which is booming in Southern California as well as many other areas of the country. Here’s what she says:

San Diego is a national hub for Biotechnology. Southwestern College started a Biotechnology technician training program in 1999 to serve the minority population of the San Diego South Bay. The program attracted participants seeking jobs as well as transfer students. The students complete a set of rigorous lecture and lab courses to prepare for real-life research internships.

In 2004, the ATE-sponsored BETSI (Biotechnology Education and Training Sequence Investment Project) was launched to bring cutting-edge Biotechnology practices to Sweetwater Union High School District and to train Southwestern College student in the fundamentals of Biotechnology. The BETSI model helps get pre-college students excited about the field and helps position community college students for successful careers as Biotechnology technicians and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) majors. From high school to community college to the workplace, BETSI is an education and training cascade bringing students from books to the benches of research.

Believe it or not, BETSI is just one of 349 ATE projects and centers at community colleges around the country. Covering a wide swath of subjects and specialties alphabetically ranging from A(AgrowKnowledge: The National Center for Agriscience & Technology Education) to W (Water and Wastewater Technician Training Institute at Bowling Green Community College), the ATE programs are designed to support and inspire educators, students and the general public as they explore the depth and breadth of the Advanced Technological Education Program.

You can find descriptions and links to all of these programs, encompassing nearly 3,000 courses, modules, and activities on ATE Central the ATE’s online portal and one-stop shopping resource. ATE Central’s digital library can help direct users to ATE’s full range of easy-to-use online resources, which include curricula, learning objects and podcasts. The portal also serves as a central communication and support point for all of the many individuals involved in ATE centers and projects and through the site’s collaborative tools and reference materials, enable educators to implement successful projects and mentor new projects.

Take a look, but leave yourself plenty of time — from Nanotechnology to Viticulture and Enology Science (wine making) to Terrorist Agent Control Technology and everything in between, there’s a wealth of information and ideas about Advanced Technological Education programs to keep you engrossed for a very long time!