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Feb. 2, 2012

Blinn’s Technical Education Center changes student’s life

After being laid off, New Ulm resident now shining as Emerson Process Management machinist

Ryan BarrettWhen Ryan Barrett’s old job required him to move furniture into Blinn College’s A.W. Hodde, Jr. Technical Education Center in Brenham, he had no idea just how crucial the center’s programs would be to his future.

When Barrett was informed that cutbacks would result in his maintenance job being eliminated in August, the 25-year-old New Ulm resident didn’t have any idea where his next paycheck would come from. With just a high school diploma in hand, it seemed that his options would be limited—that is, until he spoke to a friend who worked at a local machinist’s shop. His friend recalled that Blinn’s Technical Education Center might be of help, and sure enough, when Barrett combed through the course catalog he found what he was looking for–a machinist’s class.

Four days after he was laid off, Barrett began the next chapter of his life thanks to Blinn’s technical education program.

“It was all new to me,” said Barrett, who is now working at Emerson Process Management’s PIC location in Brenham. “I’d never seen these machines before. I’d never used the kind of tools that we use here.”

Nonetheless, Barrett proved a quick study. Technical Education Center Director Dr. Milton Radke put Barrett in touch with Emerson Process Management after the company informed Radke that it may have an opening in its shop. Barrett filled out an application, and after a successful interview he was hired part-time even as he continued his training at the education center.

It took seven weeks for Barrett to complete the 280-hour course.

“The first week I was wondering, how am I ever going to learn all this stuff?” Barrett said. “But once we started getting into the shop and doing more hands-on work and seeing what they were talking about in the classroom, it became really easy for me. It was something I enjoyed doing, and I really got into it.”

Once Barrett completed his training at Blinn, Emerson hired him full-time into a division that would ultimately contribute $7 billion towards Emerson’s 2011 fiscal year sales of $24 billion.

 “I was really excited,” Barrett said. “Working at my old job wasn’t very challenging. I feel a lot more comfortable here.”

Blinn’s technical education program has benefitted Emerson, as well, providing a pool of trained applicants just a few miles from the company’s Brenham location. In fact, two weeks after hiring Barrett, Emerson also hired another member from the same class, Dontavious Hubert, as a saw shop operator.

Prior to that class’s graduation, Emerson invited the Blinn students to their shop so they could see a professional machinist’s shop and learn about the company. The manufacturing manager interviewed every student who expressed an interest in the company.

“Dr. Radke and his Blinn Technical College team led by David Yeager have been very instrumental in working with Emerson/PIC to develop programs that will meet our business needs,” said Emerson Process Management General Manager Eric Claggett. “So far, it has been a great relationship for Emerson/PIC and one we feel will only continue to grow over time.”

With the introduction of innovative new equipment, students such as Barrett have an opportunity to work with cutting-edge technology. Kim Shupak, the human resources manager at Emerson Process Management, said she is very excited about the relationship with the Blinn Technical Center.

“It has been challenging for us to find experienced machinists,” she said. “Our hope with Ryan and other students from the program is that Blinn’s technical program provides the foundation, and we can provide the work experience and continued training in order to develop skilled machinists. As our business grows and we continue to add people, the Blinn technical program will be a source for us.”

Emerson Process Management, an Emerson business, is a leader in helping businesses automate their production, processing and distribution in a broad array of industries that include chemical, oil and gas, pulp and paper, power, water and wastewater treatment, mining and others.

Opened in February 2010, Blinn’s $2 million technical education center houses programs to support the educational needs of businesses in the area. Some 1,200-1,500 people are trained each year in the 12,000 square-foot facility, with an emphasis on manufacturing, electrical, construction crafts, mechanical, leadership, management and health.

“The support from our communities has just been tremendous,” Radke said. “The partnership between Blinn and our local communities continues to help provide outstanding educational and career opportunities for the citizens of Washington and surrounding counties.”

Graduates of the program have a 100 percent employment rate, Radke said, and the success of students such as Barrett only helps to spread word to other companies.