Westchester Community College professor Richard Van Inwegen says students have a very direct way to get to the front of the line for a bright future in various technology fields. First, they have to have math and science skills (although they don’t have to be math whizzes or science geniuses). And second, they need to pick a specialty in a growing field.
Working in partnership with Con Edison, Van Inwegen is showing students how to succeed.
He has been teaching engineering technology at Westchester Community College since 1997. But recently, Con Edison has been providing grant funding to help students develop the skills needed to find employment in the energy industry. Students may learn about civil technology, energy systems, electrical technology, mechanical technology, engineering science, environmental science or environmental studies. Con Edison is even offering internships for qualified students in these areas.
“Con Edison has been very receptive to working with us,’’ Van Inwegen said. “We’re providing real opportunities for students to position themselves to land a job right after graduation. By studying theory, getting hands-on experience, and through “real world” practice in their exams, they’ll be among the cream of the crop when Con Edison interviews job applicants.”
The Bright Futures Program at Westchester Community College prepares students for many careers in technology, including careers in the energy field. The college’s Energy Systems Program, for example, fits perfectly with the needs of Con Edison and other area employers. Con Edison, the New York Power Authority, Entergy and other employers need candidates to replace employees nearing retirement. Con Edison turned to Westchester Community College to help develop students with the skills that relate to the company’s many energy initiatives.
“We don’t expect freshmen to have highly advanced technical skills coming into college, but they need the desire to work with their hands and apply simple math. We’ll teach them how to use the tools of the trade, read schematic diagrams, and use scopes, meters and all the modern electronic instruments,” he said.
Students may pursue either of two tracks. They may choose to pursue a Bachelor’s degree, which would require two years at a four-year school after two years at Westchester Community College. Or students may pursue an Associate’s degree at Westchester Community College to be prepared to go to work as a skilled technician immediately after graduation. If students choose to work after earning their Associate’s degree, they may qualify for 100% tuition assistance at companies such as Con Edison, which may help them with the costs of pursuing a four-year engineering degree after they are hired.
In addition, students who enroll in the various Bright Futures academic programs have several other advantages compared to their peers. They will have employment flexibility by being able to work in electrical, mechanical or civil engineering fields.They will also be working in jobs that are in-demand.
“I see the demand staying strong for these positions,’’ Van Inwegen said. “We need energy constantly and we’re always increasing our energy needs. Infrastructure needs to be improved. Technology needs to be applied to the grid. Gas and steam infrastructure needs to be upgraded. Companies are going to need technical labor to do that.”
Van Inwegen tells students who are considering enrolling in the program that it’s a good fit for people who like working with technical things. “If someone has an inquiry into the science of how things work, but they don’t want to get in to deep mathematically, this is an ideal fit,’’ he said. “It’s for someone who likes to go to a job and repair something or update equipment. They’re going to have to think on their feet instead of at a desk.”
For more information on the Bright Futures Program at Westchester Community College, visit the school website .