Knowledge Is Power – Wisdom Through Education

Posted By: Larry Autry on October 11, 2017

Today, we welcome Larry Autry, Instructor at Tennessee College of Applied Technology – Ripley (TCAT-Ripley) one of the technical colleges that partners with Tooling U-SME to train the technology experts of the future.

Dave Ewers

As a technical college instructor from the small town of Ripley, Tennessee, my goal is to be able to train every student, taking them to the point where they can go out into the world and make a difference for themselves and their employers. Technology is rapidly changing, and my students need to have an edge to survive and compete.

Here at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology – Ripley (TCAT-Ripley), I teach Industrial Motor Controls and Programmable Logic Controllers as part of our Industrial Electricity program. Students can achieve various levels throughout their first year, from an Electrician Helper certificate to an Industrial Electrician diploma. We use Tooling U-SME’s online training for the first three trimesters to provide the knowledge and skills guide, and end with on-the-job training (OJT) and hands-on training to complete the diploma.

We take students that often have no background or experience with electricity. To motivate them, I always start by telling them “knowledge is power and wisdom comes through education.” This helps them understand that this is their journey – their opportunity to do great things and make a difference.

In order to be successful and place my students in jobs within the industry, I needed to reach out to the community. Here is what I learned:

  • Manufacturers have urgent requirements other than just the knowledge and skills of an electrician – they want soft skills.
  • The community is willing to find the funds to accomplish the mission of engaging local people in search of opportunities and/or employment, and help make them successful.

To provide students with soft skills, I integrated a class entitled, “Worker Characteristics – the Essentials of Communication” with Tooling U-SME’s “Team Leadership” and “5S”. Together, these classes help students get organized and streamline tasks. More importantly, they provide students with the essential wisdom of working with others, listening, and engaging in a shop culture.

To show the community our students’ dedication to the mission, I had them “learn by doing” and build their own fully functional motor control trainers. The community and donors were so impressed they gave us a $380,000 grant for new equipment. With those funds, we put together a full-blown Mechatronics Training Center program with four fully equipped Motor Control/Programmable Controller Training Centers—second to none in the state.

The students saw that hard work, dedication and education pay off. Some students even asked to extend their stay because they enjoyed the journey of learning new skills. They love using the Tooling U-SME “on-the-go” app and appreciate the flexibility of taking online classes at home or anywhere from a mobile device.

One student in particular understood that education is power and took his educational opportunity to heart. Theodore -- who has a wife, two young children and a full-time job – took classes to earn an Electrician diploma with the goal of being promoted to a maintenance position at work. He attributed Tooling U-SME’s online training with giving him the flexibility to work from home and receive his third trimester apprenticeship certificate early. His company was so impressed, they promoted him to maintenance technician before he received his diploma. “These classes have really impacted my life, says Theodore. It’s never too late to further your education.”

By giving tours of our facility, engaging manufacturers as board members and connecting with community, not only was I able to show how knowledge, wisdom and education can change a student’s life, I also achieved a 95 percent job placement rate for students within the manufacturing community. The students continue to learn while on the job, and local companies are eager for the next class of graduates to fill their positions.

Tags: changing, community, flexibility, grant, "Industrial Electrician", "knowledge is power", "learn by doing", OJT, "soft skills", "TCAT Ripley", technology, "Tennessee College of Applied Technology"