ATETV Episode 31: A Bright Future for Technical Careers

This week’s episode looks at the growing career opportunities that are available with a technical degree, as ATETV visits a community college biotechnology program, talks with employers from a number of technical industries about the future job market, and takes an in-depth look at a thriving internship program that’s helping students build their resumes.

In our first segment, we head to Southwestern College, where the biotechnology program is preparing students for exciting careers in a growing industry. Beginning with the basics — learning to use laboratory equipment such as micropipettes and making solutions — students quickly advance to some of biotech’s intricate techniques: gel agarose, gel electrophoresis, and column chromatography, explains Southwestern’s Jonathan Atwater, PhD.

“The core course of study for the biotech program is four courses,” says Jonathan. “There are two lecture courses — DNA Science 1 and DNA Science 2 — and there are two laboratory courses, Introduction to Research 1 and 2.” Students begin at the ground level and work their way up to DNA sequencing and other sophisticated molecular biology techniques routinely used in today’s scientific labs. “Our students come out of this program fully prepared to work in industry without any additional training,” he adds. “They are ready to go.”

And, as we see in our second segment, an abundance of interesting career opportunities await. “The nice thing about research is that it tends not to be the same old thing day in and day out,” says Lawrence Schwartz of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. “Research is always moving forward in a very aggressive kind of way and so the problems that one addresses are always changing, which makes it stimulating.”

But, great futures are open not only to students with biotech degrees — technicians are in demand in a wide variety of industries, as employers tell us.

“One of the most interesting things about the field of telecommunications is how dynamic and diverse the field is,” notes employer Laura Bernstein of CRA Telecom.

“If you have good communication skills and you’re bright, you can do really well at a start-up software company…. and you will [earn] probably double that of your peers that went into a non-technology program,” adds employer William Bither of Atalasoft, Inc.

Finally, as FloDesign Wind Turbines co-founder Stanley Kowalski III notes, “The future is bright and America really needs that. There are plenty of opportunities…and [they are] just going to continue to grow.”

As we see in our third segment, students from Saddleback College are already experiencing some of these opportunities firsthand, through the community college’s vibrant internship program.

“Kawasaki Racing came to me because rapid prototyping hasn’t hit the racing market yet,” says Saddleback student William Graff. “They wanted to replace a headlight with a vent so we reverse engineered the headlight by laser scanning it. So [we students] are actually working in the field, but we’re learning at the same time. It’s an internship, but we’re getting paid for it.”

“Every time the phone rings, it’s a different challenge,” adds Saddleback College’s Dean of Business Science Division and Economic Development Ken Patton. “We get…requests to assist companies with new products and we have our students do the work. We pay them, it’s not free labor. But they get to learn on real-world projects and get to build their resumes.”

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