Turning a light on for students interested in electricityPublished 11:11am Friday, January 15, 2010
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
With heads down and eyes focused, a handful of area students are busy Thursday morning in a sectioned off area of Lake Michigan College’s Bertrand Crossings Campus.
Their heads down and eyes focused, their hands work between wires and tools weaving in and out almost seamlessly, working to see a final result in the task at hand. A blinking light or the successful flick of a switch.
The students are part of a specialized program gaining in popularity and is the result of three years of persistence by Niles High School electronics teacher Steven Karsten.
The program is “a full spectrum electronics program,” Karsten said, that is not only teaching students a viable trade but incorporating aspects of alternative energy and arming them with the knowledge they’ll need when trying to turn those skills into a career.
“We’re excited about it,” he said.
The Alternative Energy/Electrical Program is a comprehensive program attacking an impressive number of components of the electrical field – everything from circuits, DC and AC principals, soldering, transformers and motors to residential wiring, digital and networking principals and cable technology.
It’s a program open to students from area high schools. Currently, Karsten is teaching Niles, Buchanan and Berrien Springs high school students.
That has been Karsten’s push for the past three years – to offer the opportunity as an elective program available to students at schools in southern Berrien County.
“I have a good group of students out there,” Karsten said. “They’re very open to it, they’re very receptive. It’s pretty aggressive, we move them through it pretty quickly.”
Students learn a range of skills in a trade that is fueling jobs – especially when centered around alternative energy, another aspect that’s part of the curriculum.
Students will work with a wind turbine and solar energy system, putting each together by the end of the course.
“This just kind of gives them a heads up on the electrical trade with an emphasis on green energy solutions,” Karsten said.
The trade is gaining in strength as the country looks to alternative energy sources and more and more residences weigh the options of refitting their homes to be energy efficient. The growth of digital services also help make the electrical field a strong and steady industry.
“You have to have the skills and the knowledge,” Karsten said. “But the key to getting your foot in the door is to have that base knowledge.”
That’s what students like Anthony Horvath are getting now. Not only are they learning basics that could open the door to opportunities available through apprenticeships and military specialties, they are also learning employment skills – how to write resumes and cover letters, what to expect in interviews and how to successfully market themselves.
They are important skills in an increasingly competitive workforce.
Special materials are being used for the class, each student works with a tool bag containing the necessities and alternative energy kits were also purchased through the school for the program. The space was made possible by Lake Michigan College.
“I’ve always been kind of into science and electronics,” Horvath said. Through the program, the Niles High School senior said he’s learned skills that will help him in the future even if he doesn’t choose a career in the field. When it comes to maintaining his home, he’ll be able to save money with the knowledge of how to perform the electrical maintenance himself.
Follow up programs are available through both Lake Michigan College and Southwestern Michigan College, Karsten said, adding that the course can also account for 14 college credits through LMC.
So far, the results of the study looks good. Niles High School students finished first in their electrical division of the Michigan Industrial and Technology Education Society state competition.
“This tells me we’re on the right track,” Karsten said.