Pellissippi State expands apprenticeships, green education initiatives

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Engineering Technology students at Pellissippi State Community College blend classroom work with hands-on training. In the coming year, Pellissippi State is expanding apprenticeship programs, making plans to propose a Sustainable Technology degree program and developing transfer agreements with Tennessee Technology Centers.

Observers don’t have to look beyond East Tennessee to find a labor shortage in technical and scientific fields like engineering.

Pellissippi State Community College’s initiatives this year are helping to stem that shortage by giving prospective students more options for affordable, flexible education and training in engineering technology.

The initiatives include apprenticeship programs and a proposal under way for a new degree program in Sustainable Technology.

Working with local industry, Pellissippi State is creating apprenticeships that can deliver instruction online, on campus or at a company’s site. The length of the apprenticeship depends on the company’s needs.

“A lot of employers like the fact that they can set up a one-year or a four-year program,” said Pat Riddle, an associate professor in Engineering Technology.

The apprenticeships combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction. Companies are investing in their workers to bolster staff, as record numbers of baby boomers prepare to retire. Employers also view a broader field of competition than their county or state.

“The global economy—we’ve talked about it,” said Riddle. “It’s here today.” The apprenticeship opportunities are anticipated to expand throughout the region.

Collaboration among employers, Pellissippi State’s Engineering Technology faculty and staff, and its Business and Community Services Division is making the apprenticeships possible.

Pellissippi State faculty, meanwhile, are solidifying the curriculum for the Sustainable Technology degree program, according to Greg Armour, a Pellissippi State instructor and an architect. The college plans to submit the program proposal to the Tennessee Board of Regents, the school’s governing body, this year.

In addition to the apprenticeship and green degree program initiatives, new agreements with the Tennessee Technology centers will set a clear path for students who want to pursue an associate’s degree in Engineering Technology at Pellissippi State.

The college’s Engineering Technology degree program spans a range of disciplines. Students can pursue a concentration in Civil Engineering, Electrical Construction Management, Electrical Engineering, Industrial Maintenance, Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering.

In the midst of all the changes, Engineering Technology students are getting ready for the annual Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ SouthEastCon Robotic Hardware competition on March 15-18 in Orlando, Fla. Carl Mallette, a Pellissippi State professor in Engineering Technology, is the group’s advisor. Ken Swayne, also an Engineering Tech professor, works with the students on their entries as well.

This is the club’s fourth year in the competition. Pellissippi State’s Engineering Technology students often place in a field of competition, even though most of the teams are from four-year universities.

Next year, the Engineering Technology program has an accreditation visit scheduled with the Association of Technology, Management and Applied Engineering.

To learn more about Engineering Technology and other Pellissippi State offerings, call (865) 694-6400 or visit