Tuesday, July 21, 2015


Kyle Gordon of West Point works in the new Electrical Technology lab at East Mississippi Community College’s Golden Triangle campus. Completed in the spring, the $20,000 lab was designed with input from local business and industry leaders.

The Electrical Technology program at East Mississippi Community College’s Golden Triangle campus is stronger than ever thanks to a new $20,000 electrical lab and the support of local industries.

Electrical instructor Bobby Johnson said the new lab, completed during the spring semester, is the most up-to-date training module EMCC has ever offered electrical students. It was built by EMCC students, but designed with the input of local companies which hire students directly out of the program, some even before they’ve graduated.

“We solicit advice from industries about new processes in the workplace. As our students were constructing this lab, we made them meet a lot of those standards industries are looking for today. We’re industry-fed in what we do here,” said Johnson.

“Some students have already been able to use what they’ve learned in the lab where they’re working. That really shows that our program is keeping current with industries, and that’s what we strive to do.”

Even before the completion of the electrical lab, Johnson said the Electrical Technology program boasted a 98 percent employment rate for second semester students.

“Companies are starting to seek us out. We’re doing some grant positions through state funding that pay the students’ salaries while they’re enrolled. But lots of companies seek us out without the grant. We had one local company tell us, ‘We go nowhere else to get students. We come to EMCC,’” he said.

Bob Edwards, metering services supervisor for 4-County Electric Power Association, said his company is one among many taking notice of the students coming from EMCC’s Electrical Technology program.

“As far as residential and commercial wiring, the caliber of students EMCC is sending to 4-County for interviews and our work program is far advanced over what we normally find. Having someone come in the door who already knows how to read a print or how a motor works, these are things you’re just not going to find anywhere else,” said Edwards.

Daniel Hamilton is a 2014 graduate of EMCC’s Electrical Technology program and is now an electrician at Steel Dynamics in Lowndes County. He began his time with Steel Dynamics as an intern while still attending classes at EMCC and was hired full-time after graduating. He said EMCC’s new lab will facilitate the single most important kind of learning for electricians: hands-on training.

“Learning out of the book is necessary, but 99 percent of our job is hands-on. And the faster you can do your job, the better,” said Hamilton.

“The instructors at EMCC did a fantastic job of preparing us and making sure we understood everything. But when I got to work, I needed a lot of repetition to get faster. So if you can narrow that gap in school, it will make you that much more impressive when you get to the workforce.”

Johnson said the new electrical lab will also allow students to find out which kind of work best fits their interest and skill set. Half of the lab mimics a residential structure where students encounter every type of wiring and fixture used in a house with the exception of the hot water heater. And the other half of the lab is commercial wiring, including panels, motors, conduits and some heating and air-conditioning.

To keep pace with the computerized controls in most commercial settings, the Electrical Technology program even enlisted members of EMCC’s Information Technology department to teach a class on PLCs (Programmable Logic Controls).

Johnson said the advances made by the Electrical Technology program in the last few years can be traced back to EMCC’s Manufacturing Technology & Engineering Division, which assumed responsibility for EMCC’s manufacturing-related career-technical programs in 2013.

“That’s the only way we’ve been able to do all of this. Our assistant deans, Joe Cook and Susan Baird, took strides to find funding for us. Everything we’ve asked for, they’ve bent over backwards to get it for us. Through grants, they’ve brought in about a half a million dollars worth of new equipment for Electrical Technology, Industrial Maintenance, Mechatronics and other programs.

“They allow us to do our jobs and keep these students current with what’s going on in industry. During the last two years, the bar was raised. Then this semester we went over the bar,” said Johnson.

To learn more about Electrical Technology program or the more than 25 career-technical programs offered at EMCC, visit eastms.edu.