By Nina Cudney
Last month, I attended the advisory council meeting for the Electrical Systems Technician program at Ridley-Lowell Business & Technical Institute. These meetings serve as an opportunity for local employers to come in and share feedback about the real world requirements and expectations for the Electrical field. The goal is to make sure that Ridley’s curriculum stays current to both state and industry standards while preparing students for employment upon graduation.
As a freelance writer, it was clear that I was not there to talk about Ohm’s Law and circuitry. I was asked to attend and act as the reporter on the inside scoop of what really goes on behind the scenes of this intense program. The word “intense” came to mind the moment I walked into the lecture room and saw a math equation and diagram that took up the entire length of the white board - proof that being an Electrician is not an amateur’s game.
The round table discussion began with introductions. The combined experience in that room had to be closing in on 100 years! Charlie Noe from Healy Electric IBEW Local 3, Robin Brundage of Brundage Electric, Jordan Ramey of Hantsch Electric (who is also a current student) and Nancy Wildman, a local small business owner, represented the employer side. Philip Adams (Lead Electrical Instructor) and owner of Adams Unlimited Construction is a Master Electrician (E-1). David Coelho is another Electrical Instructor who retired from CT Light and Power (now Eversource) after 40 years and remains in the field by teaching at both Ridley-Lowell and Henry Abbot Technical High School where he has taught since 1976. Finally, David DeSousa, a graduate of Ridley-Lowell, who has returned to assist as an Instructor and now employed in the field at Bertozzi Electric. This was certainly a well-informed group to be discussing the field.
So, how does Ridley keep up with the ever-changing State regulations? Well, this is no easy feat. Hosting this Advisory council meeting is one way to stay ahead of the game. When State requirements change Philip and David move into action quickly to make sure that all of the updated texts and supplies are ordered and manage to incorporate the content into their program in a fashion that does not throw their students off into the land of confusion. This was confirmed by the four students in the room as well. Jordan Ramey, Brandon O’Donoghue, Josh Cole, and Dwayne Ward are all current students in the Electrical program and came in with varying levels of knowledge and experience in the field. Throughout the conversation, each of the students would contribute with confidence and sincere respect for the profession. I was impressed by the way these students were carrying on conversations with men that had been in the field for many years! From discussing tools to blueprint reading, I was in awe watching these young men keep up with the dialogue amongst the pros!
Robin Brundage, of Brundage Electric, compared Ridley’s electrical toolkit to the work bucket he’s been carrying around daily for many years. Mr. Brundage proposed a few suggestions to update the toolkit for Ridley’s students. In agreement, Philip and David updated the toolkit for the students that started in 2016 shortly after the meeting was held. Improvements such as these add to the quality of the program and confirm the great importance of Advisory meetings.
Although working with electricity is a very serious matter, it was clear that the students enjoy themselves as well. They spend five hours a day together in a rigorous academic setting and get very close to one another. Aside from their required lab hours, they have opportunities to go on real world jobs with their Instructors and get a feel for what it’s like to work with clients and be able to troubleshoot on the job. They even assist the Instructors with inside jobs at the school. One student spoke about his experience trying to figure out why a light was flickering in one of the staff offices. It’s not always as simple as we think it is. These moments not only build confidence but they encourage curiosity and self-directed learning, which is a skill that cannot be taught by a textbook.
I left the meeting impressed, enlightened and very confident that the graduates that come out of Ridley’s electrical program are some of the most well-equipped in the area, hands down
Nina Cudney has been freelancing since 2008 and has worked in many areas of writing - from blog posts to grant proposals. In 2010, she came on board at Ridley-Lowell as an Admissions Representative and worked her way up to the Dean of Education. Always putting her heart into everything she does, she is now following her passion and has a full-time career as a Writer and Wellness Coach.