Issue 388: 8 / 1 / 2011

Industrial Advisory Committee Meeting Reignites Interest in Southwest Programs

Garry Spencer (standing upper left ...

Garry Spencer (standing upper left front) chairs a recent Industrial Advisory Committee Meeting at Southwest.

Over 40 professionals attended the Southwest Industrial Advisory Committee meeting at the Macon Cove Campus on July 19. Representatives from major segments of the industry were present including; architectural, manufacturing, biomedical, logistical, and educational industries. Southwest Department Head of Technologies Garry Spencer said they pulled together these industry professionals to get input regarding the construct of program curriculums. “We want to make sure our programs are going in the right direction and basically avail ourselves of their knowledge and experience in the industry,” said Spencer.

Industry professional Philip Lim, manager of Electric Distribution Engineering for Memphis Light Gas and Water (MLGW), indicated the utility company is particularly interested in the college’s programs because they hire Southwest students. He said MLGW‘s latest technology, like the new Smart Grid, requires specific skills. The Smart Grid is a combination of equipment communications and processes that utilities use to enhance internal operations and help consumers control their energy consumption. “This new technology requires that students really understand theoretical aspects of their training and know how to interact with customers,” said Lim.

During the meeting, Spencer informed committee members that Southwest received a combined $400,000 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Grant and Technology Access Fees (AF) which were used for equipment upgrades. Lisa Jones, program coordinator of Electrical Engineering Technology informed the committee about the Southern Energy Training Consortium (SETC) Grant awarded to the college. This $1.4 million grant (programming ends January 2012) provided training for 271 students out of which 38 completed coursework, and 14 found jobs. As part of the SETC grant requirements, engineering technologies curriculums have been updated to include:  alternative energy, solar photovoltaic’s, biodiesel, green manufacturing, and LEED construction techniques.

Jones also stated that the Tennessee Valley Authority once again contributed $5,000 in tuition scholarships for eligible high school students to enroll in certificate programs this past year. She indicated six students graduated concurrently with high school diplomas and certificates from Southwest.

Another focal point of the meeting was the statistical placement data, specific to applied science degrees and technical certificates, reported on by Southwest Director of Career Services Brenda Williams. She reported that the Office of Career Studies tracked over 800 students. Their findings showed a 78 percent placement rate for jobs related to students’ majors, despite the current economy. She further reported a 100 percent placement rate for several programs:  “I want to point out that we had 100 percent job placement in Electrical Engineering Technology, Mechanical Engineering Technology, as well as several of our certificate programs. The Electrical Electronics Fundamentals, Manufacturing Fundamentals, and our Quality Assurance programs all had 100 percent placement,” Williams stated.

The meeting ended with breakout sessions specific to industry specialties.

View more Industrial Advisory Committee Meeting photos.