In the TJC Industrial Maintenance Technology program, the expectations are clear from the get-go: Treat the program like it’s your job.
“We treat you as an employee from the very beginning,” said Link Worthen, program coordinator and professor. “It’s very structured. If someone isn’t in class, they know that we will be calling and checking on them.”
Worthen continued, “We’re not just teaching what to know but also how to work and be successful in the culture of industry: how to follow instructions, be on time, listen, work as a team, avoid the pitfalls and, above all, communicate.”
These “soft skills” are an integral part of TJC’s two-year program that trains students for successful careers in a variety of industrial disciplines.
“Major industries look to TJC to train skilled professionals who can slide right into a job maintaining their state-of-the-art facilities,” Worthen said. “We actually created this program with input from local industry professionals, so we would be able to know exactly what they needed in an employee and then build the program around those needs.”
What area industries are looking for, he said, is a “multicraft” worker with varied knowledge of industrial maintenance.
“They want a 21st-century, jack-of-all-trades maintenance worker with mostly mechanical experience but who also has some electrical and HVAC experience,” he said.
In addition to soft skills, the TJC program teaches pneumatics, mechanical drives, hydraulics, electrical instrumentation, HVAC/Refrigeration, rigging, boiler operation and more.
“Some of our students might already excel at any one of these trades, but TJC will make them a well-rounded multicraft worker,” Worthen said.
Worthen regularly scans the classified ads and employment websites to keep current on what industries are coming into the area, what jobs they’re hiring for and what kind of expertise they want in an employee.
In the past, he said, a two-year technical degree was listed as a preferred qualification in employment ads, but now it’s mostly a job requirement.
“Employers want a person with a two-year technical degree because it shows not just the technical skills, but also that this is a disciplined, hard-working person who can finish what they start,” he said. “They’re looking for solid, mature people who will follow through.”
From left, Roger Cogburn, Hiland Dairy maintenance supervisor; Tim Harvey, TJC student and Hiland summer intern; and Link Worthen, TJC Industrial Maintenance Technology program coordinator and professor.
Summer internships have been a great way for TJC students to test their wings in the workforce.
Roger Cogburn, maintenance supervisor at Hiland Dairy in Tyler, is a 2012 graduate of TJC. In his position at Hiland, Cogburn hires and supervises TJC student interns, some of whom become permanent employees after graduation.
“The students TJC is integrating into the workforce through the internship program are excellent,” Cogburn said. “That is greatly due to the professors teaching in the Industrial Maintenance Technology program. Also, somewhere between quality of student and quality of professors, TJC is producing students with great work ethics.”
Cogburn is currently overseeing TJC students who are completing summer internships at Hiland, including Tim Harvey of Tyler.
“Tim has been great,” Cogburn said. “He has a very reserved attitude but is ferocious when attacking a task or project. Additionally, he fits in well with the rest of the maintenance team and contributes ideas to improve the maintenance plan. Tim is an excellent representation of the type of technicians the industry needs.”
Harvey said, “I have learned so much, and all the guys here are really nice. They always answer my questions or find some YouTube video to help me answer it. There are some welders and fabricators here, so I tried to glean as much knowledge as I can by asking lots of questions. I’m learning as much as I can.”
Cogburn added, “Teaming up with TJC and working with professors (Billy) Calcote and Worthen has been a fruitful experience that will benefit our Hiland Dairy interns. The quality of education and the quality of the students, combined with the intern experience, will produce excellent technicians.”
That kind of report is music to Worthen’s ears.
“Putting guys like Tim in an opportunity like this is why I come to work every day,” he said. “Our goal is for our students to have a job lined up by the time they graduate, and the experience our students gain from these internships can often lead to that.”
For more on the TJC Industrial Maintenance Technology program, go to TJC.edu/IMT.