Richard Cole’s life changed when his step-mom picked him up from the airport when he came in from Ohio for a family visit. She was enrolled in St. Petersburg College’s Engineering Technology program, and she needed to run by the lab at SPC before heading home. The things he saw there got him very interested in the program.
“All the cool equipment they have in the lab and talking to students and professors and seeing what they were doing was so exciting,” Cole said. “I was familiar with electronics, but I had no idea how cool it was or how interested I would be.”
Cole packed up and moved to St. Petersburg and began his studies in the fall of 2017.
Program Director Lara Sharp said the Associate in Science degree in Engineering Technology with the electronics subplan, which includes courses in robotics and automation and sensors, is great for a lot of people who may not have considered it before. This degree prepares its graduates for careers in a field with very high demand for workers, and if they begin in Spring of 2021, they may be eligible for a Mechatronics and Electromechanical Technician Training (METT) grant, which would pay for books and technical needs.
“If you tinker with electronics or are detail-oriented, this is a great program for you,” Sharp said. “And it also appeals to veterans, because they often have a background in electronics and it’s a way to capitalize on that skill.”
The Tampa Bay area offers plenty of job opportunities in this field, with many large companies like Jabil, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Honeywell, along with many other smaller businesses, looking to hire.
Cole, who doesn’t graduate until December 2020, has already begun a full-time job in the field.
“Part of the requirements for the degree are a four-credit co-op work experience,” Cole said. “SPC trained us to make resumes and gave us interview tips, and when it was time to get a position last summer, it was kind of a weird time to be looking, because of COVID. But Lara Sharp heard about an opening, and she emailed me on a Tuesday. I was hired within a week.”
Cole waited tables before getting his job at Micross Components, where he tests electronic parts for government contractors. He said the program was very doable, even for someone who was working and had been out of school for more than a decade, and he was offered plenty of support from SPC.
“There were late nights, he said, “But all of the faculty are fantastic. Some who weren’t even my teachers have helped me.
With all the hands-on experience SPC offers, Cole said he hit the ground running at his new job.
“There was a lot of real-world prep,” he said. “Everything I’ve learned in school, I’ve used. It’s never too late to go back to school, there is no reason not to. If someone like me can do it, you can do it.”
Anyone who is interested in the program or would like to learn more about the METT grant can call Lara Sharp at 727-398-8256, or email her at sharp.lara@ spcollege.edu.