EMCC success story with dual degree program

By: 
DONNA SUMMMERALL
Staff Writer

Lavaris Parker began work as a multi-craft technician at PACCAR Engine Company two months prior to his May 2017 graduation from East Mississippi Community College with dual associate degrees in Automation and Control Technology and Electrical Technology. Parker was a 27-year-old, non-traditional student who understood how much education was necessary to becoming employed in today's job market.

“Lavaris was in high demand,” EMCC Electrical Technology instructor Bobby Johnson said. “Industries are looking for people who can work on both electrical and automated processes.”
Before enrolling at EMCC, Parker earned a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology but was having trouble finding a job in his field. Most employers looking for an IT professional wanted someone with several years’ experience under their belt, he said.

“One of the things I really like about the programs at EMCC is there is a lot of hands-on training,” Parker said. “At a university you don’t always get that hands-on experience that you sometimes need. At EMCC, I was able to read the lessons in a book, put my hands on the equipment and combine the two learning processes together. It helped me to understand what I was being taught.”
Automation and Control instructor Joanna Alford said Parker excelled as a student.

“He immediately came in and was bumped to the top of the class,” Alford said.

Johnson said the instructors in these fields are always on the look out for those students who are in the class to learn.

“Lavaris had that work ethic we were looking for and quickly became a mentor to other students in class,” Johnson said. "That was one of the ways he stood out from the others."
Parker said Alford and Johnson deserve some of the credit for his success.

“Any time I had an issue or something I didn’t understand, my instructors would take the time to listen to me and make sure I got it,” Parker said. “You aren’t going to get anything but quality instruction at EMCC.”

Alford and Johnson collaborated to offer dual degrees in both electrical and automation. Students who have completed their coursework in Automation and Control can take a few more classes and earn their Electrical Technology degree. Students in the Electrical Technology program can opt to earn a second degree in Automation and Control with another semester’s worth of studies.
The impetus for the collaboration between the two departments was a demand by local industries for cross-trained employees.

“The work of automation technicians and electrical technicians are very similar but they are specialized,” Alford said. “They are both working in maintenance but an automation technician is going to levitate more to the automatic equipment where the electrician is going to go to do more of your hardwiring. Students who graduate from our programs can do both.”
Demand for students who complete both programs is high.

“We had 100 percent placement from our last Perkins report,” Johnson said. “That’s where they go through the state system, pull the names of students and verify their employment.”
Parker was skeptical at first about earning degrees in both fields but when he found out he would only have to go to school for an additional semester, he decided to go for it.

“Having training in both fields makes a big difference,” Parker said. “As a multi-craft technician, I encounter things I learned in both programs.”

Parker, who resides in Cedar Bluff, said one of the main reasons he went back to school was to better provide for his 4-year-old son, Caleb. Parker said he wasn’t expecting to enjoy his new career as much as he does though.

“I love what I am doing,” Parker said. “I tell people about it all the time. PACCAR is one of the best companies to work for in this area.”

He said he would encourage anyone considering a change to go back to school.

“The two years I spent at EMCC was definitely worth it,” Parker said. “It was hectic at times but that two-year investment changed me and my life for the better.”

Johnson said the Automation and Control Technology and Electrical Technology programs are recruiting students for next semester and they welcome women into the program as well.

This is not a program for males only, females are also in high demand who have these specialized skills, Alford said.

"We have about five women right now in the program," Alford said. "We placed one female student in an employment position that starts next week and we are in the process of placing another woman to work while still receiving instruction in the program."

Alford said the door is wide open in a field that has been previously male dominated.

"The program has grown in the past few years," Johnson said. "Our classes fill up quickly. For those interested in Electrical Technology and, or Automation and Control in the Spring semester, now is the time to get enrolled."

For more information on the Electrical Technology or Automation and Control classes, call Bobby Johnson 295-4476.

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