Posts Tagged ‘process technology’

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.

Lesson Plan: Building Trebuchets and Teamwork

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

As we saw in this week’s episode, community colleges and industry have come together to prepare students for in-demand jobs. But as we’ve been hearing from many ATETV viewers, employers are looking for more than just technical know-how. They’re also looking for employees who know how to communicate and who can work well in a group.

To that end, this week we’re presenting a lesson plan used by Jerry Duncan, head of the Process Technology program at College of the Mainland featured in this week’s episode. In this exercise, teams of students work together to build trebuchets — a kind of catapult that uses a counterweight to launch its ordinance.

“Each team is given the same plans and material to build a trebuchet, then the competition begins,” explains Duncan. “The team with the most accurate, longest throwing trebuchet receives the highest grade. The students are also peer graded on their work and contribution to the team.”

But what does a medieval siege weapon have to do with Process Technology? It all comes down to teamwork and the changing workplace. “Modern manufacturing sites have computerized and modernized their work processes so that many layers of supervision are gone,” explains Duncan. “The employees typically work in teams. They have few supervisors, so they have to work together with minimal direction to meet their production and quality goals.”

Duncan reports that the lesson is a big hit with his students. “They spend hours building, testing and refining their trebuchets,” he says. “They have learned teamwork skills, mechanical skills and basic troubleshooting skills, all of which will help them in their new careers in Process Technology.” And although Duncan uses this plan with community college students, it’s easily adaptable to high school classes.

Click here to download the lesson plan. Thanks to Jerry Duncan for his help with this week’s blog entry!

ATETV Episode 21: Industry/Community College Partnerships

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Last week we focused on the demand for technician jobs, green and otherwise. This week we’re looking at how community colleges are teaming up with industry leaders to meet that demand.

“We couldn’t exist without the technical college,” says Jill Heiden of ESAB Welding and Cutting Products in South Carolina. “They create the students that help us produce our products.”

And because these students are so vital, industry has taken an active role in their education. “Industry partners are valuable at helping you develop curriculum in the college,” says Elaine Craft, head of the South Carolina ATE Center. “You discuss what it is that they need and how you can best meet those needs.”

That industry/education partnership is going strong in South Carolina, but it’s an important part of ATE programs across the country. At The College of the Mainland in Texas, Process Technology students like Umair Virani are learning how to use the same equipment in the field at major oil refineries. Umair actually has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, but he decided he wanted hands-on experience that would let him work in an environment outside the lab.

Finally, we visit the Video Simulation and Game Development program at Wake Technical Community College, which is located near the Research Triangle in North Carolina, a hotbed of the game industry. Wake Technical’s Kai Wang says one of the missions of the program is “trying to meet local industry demand” from those game makers.

To accomplish that, the school asks the industry for input. “We work very closely with industry representatives, advisory committees, and they really drive what we train individuals on,” explains Wake’s Robert Grove. “When students are finished with us, they are ready to enter the workforce because we have designed that program based upon what they have told us to do.”

Whether it’s video game design, oil refining or high-tech manufacturing, employers are looking for specific skills. By working with them directly, community colleges are making sure that the lessons they are teaching are preparing students for the real world.

ATETV Episode 15: From Protecting the Environment to Protecting Data Online

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009



This week, we’re looking at three fields that are absolutely vital to our modern infrastructure. This is the stuff that has to work so the rest of us can get to work.

First, we visit the Engineering Technology program at Bristol Community College, where students can specialize in Environmental Technology – “essentially, any type of technology designed to enhance or protect our environment,” according to BCC’s Anthony Ucci. That includes working on the wastewater and freshwater treatment systems that keep our water supply clean and drinkable.

Next we head to the College of the Mainland to learn more about Process Technology – “taking material and turning it into something useful,” according to program director Jerry Duncan. Process Technology covers everything from making oil into gasoline, or malt and hops into beer. Student Zachary Bundy is doing an internship through the Process Technology program there; he considers it an extended job interview for a position after he graduates.

If Environmental and Process Technology each keep our physical infrastructure humming, then Information Security is what keeps our virtual infrastructure safe and online when we need it. That’s one of the majors offered at Springfield Technical Community College. With more data going online – including financial transactions – Information Security is a growth industry. And according to STCC’s Andrew Maynard, the sensitive nature of the information being protected means that security jobs are less likely to be outsourced than others.

Check back next week for the next episode of ATETV. Until then, have a happy new year!

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.