A community college program for the training of technicians

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  • A Community College Program for the Training of Technicians John Kenkel Southeast Community College, 8800 " 0 Street, Lincoln, NE 68520

    Chemists have recognized for many years that the tasks assigned to a technician-level chemist in a "real-world" in- dustrial or governmental laboratory are such that significant "hands-on", or "applied" training is desirable. Often, this means a sort of re-trainine bv the emnlover to chance a bachelor's degree chemist'souhok on the chemistry world from one of conceptualization and theory to one of bench- top experimentation and analysis. New bachelor's degree ~ersonnel must discover auicklv that tvoical real-world iobs do not involve using cal&lus for d e t e k n i n g the an&lar momentum of a spinning electron or determining the elec- trode mechanism of the electrochemical reduction of a com- plex organic species. They find that these jobs involve the chem~cal analysis of raw materials used in the manufacture of some conrumahle product,or thesampling and analysis of a wastewater nlant effluent. The noint is t h a t freouentlv bachelor's degree chemists are not prepared for real-world chemistry experiences.

    Current Programs Of course, there are academic programs in existence that

    cater to the chemical industry. Some four-year institutions offer BS and even MS degrees in Industrial Chemistry.' Also, for many years a number of four-year colleges and community colleges across the country have been offering programs in Chemical Techno1ogy.z Some of these pro- grams, begun approximately 15 years ago as a result of an initiative taken by the American Chemical Society (ACS), were the result of detailed studies oerformed hv various committees organized by the ACS. Tbus, " ~ h e m ~ e c " pro- erams were established a t a numher of " ~ i l o t schools" across the country.

    The schools that were chosen were near metrooolitan ar- eas in which chemical-related industries were concentrated and the demand for industrv-oriented chemical technicians was high. While many of these programs appear to be suc- cessful, the concept does not seem to have "caueht on" a t community colleges in other locations. There is likkly to he a demand for trained technicians in other locations, but the projections for success are not favorable. High operating costs, too small a demand, and recruitment difficulties are all possible problems.

    Southeast Communlly College's Program This paper describes a technician training program in

    operation a t Southeast Communitv Colleee (SCC) in Lin- coln, Nehraska. An observation concerningthe ~ i n c o l n area is that it is not an area where one would expect a high demand for chemical technicians. The program has been quite successful, however, as evidenced by the fact that job placement for the last two years is 100% and for the last seven years is go%+. Enrollment in this program is not aided by any sort of special recruiting effort. I t relies mostly on its established reputation. Typically around 30 students (both

    ' For example. Florida Technological University, Orlando, FL. For example, Florissant Valley Community College, St. Louis,

    MO, and Community College of Rhode Island, Warwick, RI.

    614 Journal of Chemical Education

    Table 1. Chemistry Course Sequence at Southeast Communlty Colletle

    Quarter 1 Quarter 2 Quarter 3

    Introductory Chemistry I introductory Chemistry I1 lntroduct~w Oraanic Chemlsuv . "

    Quarter 4 Analytical Chemistry fw Technicians I Quarter 5 Analytical Chemistry fw Technicians I1 Quarter 6 Analytical Chemistry f a Technicians Il l

    Table 2. A Six-Quarter Environmental Laboratory Technlclan Curriculumd

    Course Credit Hours

    Fimt Q&er: Environmental Lab Orientation 1.0 introductory Chemistry I 4.5 lmroductory Biology I 4.5 Communications I 3.0 Calcuiators and Calculations 3.0 Introduction to Microcomputers - 1.5

    17.5 Second Quarter

    lmroductory Chemistry I1 Introductory Biology I1 Physics Concepts I Communications I 1 Algebra and Trigonometry

    Third Quarter Introductory Organic Chemistry Introduction to Microblolagy Sanitation Physics Concepts I1 Water Supply Systems

    FoorM Quarter Analytical Chemistry for Technicians I Applied Microbiology Water Pollution Control Systems Electims)

    Fifth Ouarter Analytical Chemistry tor Technicians I1 E~ology WaterIWastewater Analysis Statistics Practicum I Elective

    Sixth Quarter Analytical Chemistry for Technicians Il l Biological Applications of Analytical Chemistry Communications Il l PraCtiCum I1 Elective

    Total

    'Base3 an me Sovmeast Cmmunily College cuniculum.

  • full-time and part-time) are enrolled a t the same time and tive analvsis followed bv instrumental analvsis. but it is from 8-15 people graduntc (with an Associate of Applied Science Degree and sunle lesser nwards) each year.

    There are two facturs that contribute most significantly to the success uf this proKram. The first is that in addition to their traininr in chemistrv. the students receive sirnificant training in b~ology/microb~ology and water and wastewater plant operations and laboratorv. Job oouortunities in these fields are also available to them. The p&ram is called "En- vironmental Laboratory Technology" (ELT). Such a design obviously aids in the student's marketability. Employment opportunities in the wastewater field seem to be particularly important. The program receives excellent support from local employers who donate equipment and time.

    Second. the chemistrv course seauence has been desiened ~ ~ ~ ~~~ ~~ - - ~ - ~~ so that the number ofteaching staff required is minimal, thus reducina uroiected exuenses. In the ACS-insnired nro- -. - grams, a course sequence is taught that is completely sepa- rate from other chemistrv offerings. because a series of text- books published by the ACS for ihkse programs is specially designed for technician trainina and is not auurouriate for chemistry courses used for other purposes. Ahkitibnal staff are therefore required.

    At SCC, the technician trainees enroll in an introductory chemistrylorganic chemistry sequence the first year. This same sequence is for allied health students who enroll a t SCC, and it uses the standard textbooks. Additional staff and materials for labs are not needed.

    111 the second year of training, the ELT students branch intu the "s~rcialtv" cuurses cal1L.d .'.4nalvtical Chemistrv for ~echnicians I, 11; and 111". I t is in thishequence that they learn the necessary analvtical techniaues and instrumenta- tion. These are co;rses that are not f&nd in other curricula (except those for medical lab technicians a t SCC) and thus do require additional staff time and materials. he courses are described below and the total chemistry sequence is shown in Table 1.

    Analytical Chemistry for Technlclans The analytical sequence, unlike the introductory se-

    quence, is unique to SCC. I t is structured along the lines of a traditional analytical chemistry course: classical quantita-

    " . oriented toward technician training and assumes only an introductorv level background. The first course is classical quantitative analysis ih ich emphasizes titrimetric tech- niques (pipetting, titrating, solution prep, etc.), while the second course emphasizes analytical instrumentation (spec- trophotometry, including AA, and chromatography, includ- ing GC and HPLC). The third course is purely a laboratory course in which real-world samples (soil, water, food, bever- ages, pharmaceuticals, etc.) are analyzed using techniques learned in the other two courses. The use of computers is included in all these courses.

    Traditional analytical textbooks have been found to be ina~prouriate for this seaueuce. Textbook materials for the an&& sequence have-therefore been developed a t SCC and are currentlv beina class tested. Publication hv Lewis Publishers, ~nc.,;s exp'cted by 1987.

    The Total Curriculum

    Table 2 shows a total six-quarter curriculum for Environ- mental Laboratory Technology based on what is offered a t SCC. The biology/microbiology sequence and the water/ wastewater sequence are geared toward technician jobs in these fields. Courses in oral and written communication, math, physics, and microcomputers are included. Practicum I and I1 are courses in which the students spend time in a real laboratorv during their classroom training. There is excel- lent support from the Lincoln laboratory community for this, and it gives the students a possible added advantaee as far as jobs are concerned.

    Conclusion The Environmental Laboratory Technician Program at

    SCC is unique. Its success is attributed to a lower than expected budget and a good measure of support from the Lincoln community, as well as a broader training schedule to include biology/microbiology and water/wastewater sys- tems. The enrollment meets the reauirements of a cost- effective program, mostly due to the lob budget and the level of localsuuuort. I t is a uossible alternative to a nurelvchemi- . " cal technolbgy program in locations where such a program would not survive.

    Volume 63 Number 7 July 1966 615

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