Three-time Pellissippi State student finds promise in new degrees

Brenda Hale

Brenda Hale has probably experienced a heavier dose of work-world reality than most of Pellissippi State Community College’s 10,000-plus students.

The 54-year-old single mother is attending the college for the third time in nearly four decades, with a firsthand understanding of the fickleness of the economy and of employers’ needs for well-rounded, well-educated employees.

“I’ve been downsized and I’ve been laid off, but I know I can come back to Pellissippi State and update my education if I need to,” Hale said. “Pellissippi State reflects real life.”

Hale first graduated from Pellissippi State in 1980, only four years after the institution opened as State Technical Institute at Knoxville. She graduated with a degree in Construction Engineering Technology and was immediately hired by TVA. She went to work on construction at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant near Spring City, but when that phase of work was completed, TVA laid off the construction team.

So Hale returned to Pellissippi State. She earned a second degree, this time in Computer Integrated Drafting and Design, in 1990. She worked for businesses around East Tennessee using that degree for nearly 20 years — until her position was downsized during the recession in 2008.

“I took some time off then to spend with my son, who was young,” Hale said, “and I went back to work part time. But now my son is older, and I’m looking for full-time work again. Since the recession, the CAD [computer-aided drafting] workers that businesses needed before now need to know new programs, like SolidWorks.”

So Hale once again enrolled at Pellissippi State.

“Pellissippi State is familiar and it’s convenient, and I know that the education I receive here is going to be what employers are looking for. They need people who know how to use SolidWorks, so that’s what Pellissippi State is offering now.”

Hale is now in the Engineering Technology/Mechanical Engineering degree program. She’s also studying additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, while she’s here.

“I love what I do — I love drafting,” Hale said. “I’ve always been interested in houses and building things, and I’ve never been tired of this job. It’s wonderful to see what was manufactured from my drawings. Things like 3D printing are the new iterations of what I do.”

“Technology is pulling everything forward,” said Pat Riddle, program coordinator of Engineering Technology/Mechanical Engineering at Pellissippi State. “Continuing education or training on the job is going to be necessary in many fields in the future, as employees find they have to keep up with changing programs and knowledge.”

For more information about Pellissippi State and its many program offerings, visit www.pstcc.edu or call (865) 694-6400.