Posts Tagged ‘episode 3’

The ATE Difference: Dedicated Teachers with First-Hand Experience

Monday, October 5th, 2009

A main goal of Advanced Technological Education is to give students technical skills that will greatly improve their quality of life. In Episode 3, we meet a dedicated teacher who is doing just that.

Jerry Duncan worked as a chemical engineer for 27 years before turning to teaching. He’s now the head of the Process Technology department at the College of Mainland. He’s also a former head of the Center for the Advancement of Process Technology (CAPT) and an ATETV advisor.

We followed up with Jerry this week to ask him a couple more questions about the impact of Advanced Technological Education on his students’ lives.

ATETV: What is a memorable success story from a student of yours?

Jerry Duncan: There are many success stories. One of the more interesting ones is a guy named Austin. He took dual-credit courses toward Process Technology in high school and finished up his degree at the College of the Mainland. He received a paid internship at a local refinery, and one month after he completed his internship and graduated he was offered a full-time job.

Austin just turned 20. He is making $80,000 a year. He comes back to the college every semester and speaks to the public about his experiences, to help us recruit new students.

ATETV: Wow, that is inspiring. Why is the demand so high for students with ATE degrees, and more specifically degrees in Process Technology?

JD: Demand is high because the average age of process technicians in the industry is about 50. Many people are starting to retire, and unfortunately many of today’s students will not consider working in a refinery or chemical plant. These workplaces are perceived to be dirty and labor-intensive.

Nothing could be further from the truth. These plants have retooled themselves into high-tech industries. The employees have to be able to understand how these complex factories work.

A survey that we did at CAPT estimated that over 50,000 process technology jobs will become available in the next 5 years. There are 55 colleges that offer Process Technology degrees. They graduate about 1,200 students per year, so you can see there is a large gap to overcome.

ATETV: What does your average student look like? How does a degree in process technology change their lifestyle and starting salary?

JD: Our average student is 27 years old (they range from 18 to 50). Generally speaking most of our students are working at jobs which pay $10-12 an hour. Once they graduate, the major refineries and chemical companies start them out at $30 an hour. Tripling your salary certainly makes a difference in their lifestyle. Additionally, all major companies offer life and dental insurance, a 401K, etc.

The Process Technology program gives the students a baseline which allows the companies to quickly integrate them into their organization. They are taught math, physics, chemistry and technical courses which deal with the types of equipment that they will encounter in industry. They are also taught critical thinking skills and basic troubleshooting techniques.

Also this week, we look at two stories of women entering the field of biotechnology. First, we meet a young woman training to be a biomedical technician at Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology in Boston. Then we head to Southwestern College in San Diego, where the students in the biotechnology program are primarily female.

These two programs show that Advanced Technological Education isn’t just about enriching individual students’ careers; it’s also about expanding opportunity and increasing diversity in science and technology.