ST. PETERSBURG — Searching for something that can shed light on your career path? The Electricity program at the Pinellas Technical Education Center (pTEC) may provide that much-needed spark.
“It’s an excellent time to get into the field,” attested Brian Young, one of the three instructors in the program. “Though the economy has been poor it seems like the construction industry is turning around and we’ve got people going to work. There is a great shortfall in Florida especially for construction workers and electricians, so this is definitely a fine time to get into it.”
The 1,200-hour program is broken up into three courses and is available only on pTEC’s St. Pete location. The initial segment includes an introduction to electricity and covers the NCCER core curriculum, during which students learn basic wiring skills.
“They learn some materials, pipe boxes and fittings,” Young said. “They also learn a little bit of electrical math, DC theory.”
Students are even instructed in CPR and first aid before moving on to the Residential Electrician course, which includes AC theory.
“They’ll do more complicated hands-on wiring, three-way and four-way switches,” explained Young, who has served as an electrician for 26 years. “They also learn how to wire a panel, do a service drop and things of that nature.”
The Commercial Electrician course covers intricate commercial wiring, circuits and installation.
“They learn rigid conduit, which is cutting and threading,” Young stated. “They’ll learn motor controls (AC and DC motors) and they’ll be exposed a little bit to solar.”
He added that students in this phase will go more in depth into codes, and how the national and local codes reflect the work that they do at pTEC.
The center also has an articulation agreement with St. Petersburg College (SPC), which gives students the chance to gain college credit.
“If we have students who complete our course and want to take a class at SPC,” Young said, “the college will give them partial credit for the hours that they’ve spent here, toward an A.A. degree.”
Young, who has been teaching since 2006, said that this is a very hands-on program in every sense.
“This is not a hybrid class,” he affirmed, “we don’t do anything online. Everything is done here in the class.”
Taking every measure to simulate actual in-the-field experience, students work in booths that contain replicated house wiring.
“The carpentry class builds houses—just the shell of a house—and we’ll go in and wire it and then they’ll tear it down and build it again,” Young explained.
Boasting a job placement rate of nearly 80 percent, pTEC has helped students find work with such companies as Merit Electric, Young said, along with other companies and contractors around Pinellas County.
“We’ve actually had some students go over and apply to the apprenticeship program in Tampa,” he said, “through the JATC [Joint Apprenticeship Committee Training] and been accepted though there, so we’ve had students go on to get jobs in electro design and engineering.”
Young estimated that only 15 percent of college bound students out of high school will actually graduate from a four year program and work in the field that they went to college to study.
“So there’s a great opportunity for those other 85 percent of the high school students to come to a vocational school and get a career!” he said.
Though Young estimated the average age of the students in his class to be late 20s, he said that everyone from teenagers to people in their 60s have been drawn to the class for a number of reasons.
“The program here at pTEC is a great opportunity for young and old alike,” he stated. “It’s a great first career; it’s a great second career. Even if you don’t go into the electrical trade it gives you a great sense of accomplishment to learn some electrical skills that you can use at your own house, like when a breaker trips, or when you need to replace a ceiling fan or what have you.”
It is apparent Young is a teacher who is enthusiastic about turning his students on to the world of electricity, and loves the reward it brings.
“I like being able to verbalize a concept and seeing the light bulb go off in my students,” he averred. “I can see the spark in their eyes when they understand what it is I’m trying to explain. When I can demonstrate it in class or describe it in a certain way so it’s passed along to them, I feel like I’m training the next generation of electricians. It makes me feel good to be passing along my knowledge to my students.”
The next Electricity class starts Aug. 18, so if you’re interested in this career path, please visit myptec.org or call 727-893-2500. Financial aid is available. See ad on page 6.