No chips on their shoulders

Clint Day is one of those students who hopes to walk out of Richland College (Texas) with an associate degree and straight into a full-time job.

He has one foot pointed in that direction, and it only took him 18 years to get there.

“I was a professional student,” said Day, who has done stints at several colleges. At 36, he is pursuing an associate degree in the Dallas County Community College District’s electrical engineering technology (EET) program.

“Things look promising, and I really like what I’m doing,” Day said.  “Electrical engineering technology is practical. You’re applying electronics and mechanical principals plus math and science. You’re doing a lot of hands-on work.”

He enrolled in the program because he liked the on-the-job training made possible by Richland and its corporate partner, Texas Instruments (TI) Incorporated. Students go through a rigorous and competitive interview process to qualify for the internship program. Students work and train in one of TI’s manufacturing facilities, where they learn to ensure that equipment such as thermostats are working properly.

Creating a new pathway

In 2015, TI partnered with DCCCD to drum up interest after the district considered discontinuing the program because too few students were enrolled, said Kory Goldammer, who heads EET at Richland.

That changed when DCCCD Chancellor Joe May and other district and college officials met with TI to create a new and improved program. To meet the interests and demands of the workforce, a new name was born: “Electrical Engineering Technology – Semiconductor Manufacturing Pathway.” In two years, students can be trained to enter a competitive job market in commercial, industrial or electronic technicians.

“EETs typically have a solid background in troubleshooting skills,” Goldammer said. “This field attracts students with sound science and mathematics skills.”

The semiconductor program changed from a technician’s role in which students learned to make semiconductor chips to electrical engineering technology. That happened because the industry needs workers who know how to maintain and repair automated equipment used to manufacture the chips, Goldammer said.

“There’s a little bit of history with this (field). It’s different from what it used to be,” he said. “As a result, semiconductor (manufacturing) changed. Previously, the program focused on teaching students to make semiconductor chips, but now machines do that. They need people to maintain and repair the equipment.”

Interest in that field of study is growing as students are prepared to enter the job market within two years for careers as technicians.  So far, 31 Richland College students have filed degree plans in EET, Goldammer said.

Getting hands-on experience

This past summer, Day completed a three-month TI internship which helps students graduate with the competencies that can make them employable.  Day’s work was impressive, and his internship was extended to December.

Clint Day is suited up for his internship at Texas Instruments. (Photo: DCCCD)

“He is one of our success stories,” Goldammer said. “The degree plan has been in place for only four semesters, which means that this is the first semester we should expect EET students to begin receiving their degrees in any significant numbers.”

So far, 10 Richland students have been hired by TI.

Day hopes to follow in those footsteps. He is doing his dream job, repairing and maintaining machines. And he won the “TI Intern Challenge” academic honor over fellow DCCCD students, as well as others from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Georgia Institute of Technology.

“It was fun competing with the four-year schools. For me, it was a pride thing. And it made a good impression on my boss because I was the only person from a community college who was competing. I was a sleeper,” Day said.

“It’s been a long road of life lessons,” added Day, who has worked as a bartender and restaurant manager. He’s also a former culinary arts student at El Centro College.

“It’s taken me 18 years to get a good career going,” he said. “I was searching, and I didn’t know what I wanted. But I always had EET in the back of my head. Right now, I’m doing well. I feel like I’ve taken off.”

A different route

Blake Glover is another a success story. His internship also was extended at TI while he pursues his EET degree at Richland.

Glover said he was drawn to the program after working several management jobs. He was taking an extended break from college.

“I used to drive by Texas Instruments and look at it and say ‘How do you get a job there?’” he said.

Glover started the program 10 years ago. He was happy where he was, but took one class at a time.

“Then I had a daughter. I decided to go back (to school), so I went back full time. I got this internship, and then it was extended,” said Glover, who also is angling for a full-time job at TI.

EETs typically work in manufacturing settings, engineering services, research and development laboratories, or the utilities industries. The median income for the position is $62,190 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Eastfield and Mountain View colleges have other versions of the program.

“Everything we use is automated,” said Arch Dye, who teaches electronics technology at Eastfield.

About the Author

Debra Dennis
is a news writer for the Dallas County Community College District in Texas.