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Monday, December 03, 2012

NVCC Electronic Engineering Technology Graduates Become Next Generation’s Workforce

(Waterbury, CT) - Naugatuck Valley Community College electronic engineering technology (EET) students are landing well-paying jobs with major growth potential, thanks to the specialized skill set and on-the-job training they're receiving in their first two years of college. 

Their success is due in large part to the partnerships fostered by the program's coordinator, Kristen Dagan McGee, which have given students opportunities to intern with local companies that are part of major national networks.

Dagan McGee, who has worked at the college since 2004, is passionate about moving students through her program into secure, well-paying careers.

“There aren’t many associate degrees that prepare you to start out making more than your professors,” joked Dagan McGee, “but this is one of them. It’s hard work and requires a lot of math, which I think frightens some students away, but a little discipline will go a long way financially.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics 2012-13 Occupational Outlook Handbook, electrical and electronic engineering technicians help engineers design and develop electrical and electronic equipment and often work in product evaluation and testing, using measuring and diagnostic devices to adjust, test and repair equipment. The median annual wage of electrical and electronic engineering technicians was $56,040 in May 2010.

Because of an aging workforce, companies are eager to develop a job pool for these highly specialized skill positions, which has led to two critical partnerships in recent years.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

In 2005, NVCC became the first college in Connecticut to launch an internship program to help the FAA address its upcoming shortage of electronic technicians. The program is evaluated every three years by the FAA to maintain its training status.

In 2005, NVCC became the first college in Connecticut to participate in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Technical Operations Collegiate Training Initiative (TO-CTI) program. As a TO-CTI partner institution, NVCC offers students a unique opportunity to gain paid work experience at local FAA companies while earning their degree.

In order to maintain good standing in the program, NVCC is evaluated every three years by a national FAA team. During their visit, the team reviews curriculum, interviews students and meets with key faculty and staff to assess academic rigor. The program was recently reaffirmed in September 2012.

According to Giovanni Pirraglia, manager for the FAA at the Stewart Airport Traffic Control Tower in Newburgh, NY, and one of NVCC’s FAA team evaluators this past September, the FAA is organizing its hiring to offer TO-CTI graduates even greater access to FAA jobs in the near future.

“Beginning this fiscal year, we are planning to hire between 25-35 airway transportation systems specialists (ATSS) each month across the nation in an attempt to keep up with attrition in this career field,” said Pirraglia. “Knowing that NVCC’s EET program offers good preparation in the basic skill sets we are seeking, the FAA TO-CTI program at your school could be a ‘golden ticket’ to a long, rewarding career in the FAA.”

Of its participating 44 schools, the FAA estimates approximately 10 students graduate annually from each institution qualified to apply for ATSS jobs. Since NVCC’s inclusion in TO-CTI inclusion in 2006, 11 students have been placed within the FAA system. The EET program at NVCC currently enrolls 76 students.

Northeast Utilities Foundation

The Northeast Utilities Foundation, Connecticut Light and Power (CL&P) and NVCC teamed up in 2008 to establish a competitive, cooperative scholarship combining engineering education with real world experience.

Students chosen for the scholarship program receive full financial coverage from Northeast Utilities for tuition, fees and books at NVCC. Over the summer, the students also receive paid internships at CL&P.

The goal of the program is for graduates to enter the workforce with the necessary math and technical skills and a clear understanding of what the utility industry offers. Exceptional students are even considered for permanent employment at CL&P based on academic achievement, internship success and overall performance.

For 2012 NVCC graduate Jenny Newcomb, the scholarship program made her decision to stay home and attend community college worth it. “I wanted to go away for college but all of the engineering programs I looked at cost around $30,000/year,” said Jenny. “I decided to postpone the four-year experience and explore my options more affordably at NVCC.”

Just a year after she enrolled at NVCC, Jenny was encouraged to apply for the Northeast Utilities Foundation scholarship. Because of her outstanding academic and work performance, she was offered full-time work at CL&P upon graduating.

“I feel like I found this awesome, undiscovered opportunity at NVCC,” said Jenny. “I have zero college debt and Northeast Utilities will help support the rest of my education.”

Over the past 3 academic years, 26 scholarship students completed the electronic engineering technology program. Of the graduates, 8 are now employed by Northeast Utilities, 6 found degree-related work at other companies, 11 accepted internships or transferred to four-year engineering programs and 1 is still looking for work.

While the program has been a success over the last several years, officials at Northeast Utilities are currently reviewing hiring projections before deciding on its continuance.

“Whether the program continues at this time or not, the important thing is the structure for this type of partnership has been established,” said Dagan McGee. “At community colleges we constantly evolve to support our community’s needs, and that includes phasing initiatives in - and out - as those needs change.”

For more information on electronic engineering technology and other STEM programs, contact Peter Angelastro at 203-596-8690.

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