Collaboration is key to bringing specialized training to students at Northeast Tech
The instructors at Northeast Tech Center are experts in their fields, but on occasion, they recognize their students’ need for specialized training. Such was the case for Electrical Technology Instructor Wade Friesen when it came to training his students about the electrical hazards present in their work environment.
“In industry, electricians work around high voltage electrical panels, and when we approach those panels, we need to understand that power – the potential for an arc flash,” said Friesen. “If something malfunctions in the panel, that energy can be released suddenly, and without protection, people can be injured.”
Friesen spends a significant time on safety training in his program, but as they progress through the year, some students are drawn to careers that involve high voltage – an area that warrants specialized training. However, such training comes at a cost, which can be an obstacle for many students. But with a little creativity and collaboration, Friesen and his advisors found a solution.
“Northeast Tech’s Business and Industry (BIS) Department provides an instructor and coursework for employers seeking Arc Flash/NFPA 70E Safety Training for their employees,” Friesen said. “There is a fee to enroll in the course, but if our industry partners – like McKee Foods – do not fill all the openings, my students can fill those seats at no cost.”
Friesen is quick to credit the members of his advisory board for the practical solution to an identified need.
“This is a great opportunity for my students to receive specialized training that I do not teach and to get industry workers and professionals onto our campus to see what we have to offer,” Friesen said. “Hosting this class helps me build working relationships with our local industries that may then consider using us for electrical training and hire our graduates in the future.”
Forest Garner, a senior at Jay High School, was one of five Northeast Tech students who was able to participate in the most recent arc flash training.
“It's been long, but I think it's going to work for me in the future,” Garner said. “I’m planning to go to OSU-IT for power plant technician training, so this will be very handy.”
Garner and his classmates were taught by retired safety trainer, Allen Drew, who spent a number of years as a safety trainer for Meridian Technology Center.
“This training is part of the National Electrical Code of Safety all employees should be familiar with,” Drew said. “If there’s an arc incident with a panel, the training we’re giving protects them from danger.”
After a day and a half of classroom instruction and testing, Garner and his classmates followed Drew to the shop where they took turns donning personal protective equipment and practicing safety procedures with a disconnected safety panel. At the end of the course, those who were successful earned their certificate for 12 hours of arc flash training.
“It’s only dangerous if you’re reckless,” Garner said. “If you know the dangers and wear the safety equipment you should be fine.”
Having found collaboration to be key in meeting his students’ needs, Friesen plans to continue hosting the trainings at the Northeast Tech Kansas Campus.
“As long as there is continued support from our BIS Department and industry partners, I plan to host at least two classes each year for industry and my students,” Friesen said. “It meets the needs of both our industry partners and our students. It’s win-win.”