Students earning an associate degree in the new Energy and Industrial Technician (EIT) program at
NPC will find a diverse array of employers seeking people with their well-rounded skill sets. A combination
of the previously separate Mechatronics and Industrial Maintenance and Operations (IMO) programs, EIT pre-pares students to become technicians, operators and maintenance workers who understand the entire scope of energy and industrial operations. 

EIT instructor Kevin Westfall works with students Ben Lara and Braydon Gardner to program “Baxter,” a “pick and place” robotic arm, to pick up tennis balls in a container.

EIT instructor Kevin Westfall works with students Ben Lara and Braydon Gardner to program “Baxter,” a “pick and place” robotic arm, to pick up tennis balls in a container.

The combining of two programs into the EIT program is the result of valuable input gained from area industry advisers. One of those advisers is Christopher Susag, training supervisor at the Arizona Public Service (APS) power station in Joseph City. He’s been impressed with many APS hires from NPC and believes that combining the two programs into EIT is a smart way to go. “I believe NPC has one of the leading and best programs to prepare students to work in industry.”

“The IMO and Mechatronics students we hired in the past have been able to pre-test or quickly accelerate their fundamentals training and become fully qualified in their jobs. They advance to their top salary and produc-tivity levels usually in less than a year. I have been very impressed with the candidates for employment that we have gotten from NPC and believe that combining these two programs into the EIT program will produce an even better prepared pool of applicants for our many  job classifications.”  

Students (l to r) Ian Brubaker and Cole Cowen work on the AC/DC electrical systems trainer to learn to wire combination circuits with lab aide Anthony Sanchez.

Expertly taught by instructors with vast experience, EIT is a well-designed program that arms graduates with
a well-rounded skillset that businesses are eager to employ. 

Kenny Keith, EIT program coordinator and an instructor who teaches the energy side of the program, says, “All the skill sets we teach at NPC can be used anywhere.” Kevin Westfall, a 40-year employee in industry who teaches the industry curriculum, agrees. “NPC prepares graduates who are flexible and able to work in a lot of different industries in many roles. There are opportunities here on the mountain and beyond. Students can learn many useful skills in two years at NPC, get some experience and then write their ticket to go anywhere they want to go,” says Westfall.

For instance, in Northeastern Arizona, “There are some opportunities at the power plants, and the copper mines are looking for good people. There are businesses with a need for people who know automation, semi-automation and hydraulics,” says Westfall. “Local companies need maintenance people who can keep their presses and shears running as well as weld shops that need people who can troubleshoot and repair equipment. Literally, any agricultural operation will have opportunities in automation, and there are computerized manufacturing plant opportunities available in Tucson and Phoenix. Water plants and municipal wastewater treatment operations are also potential employers. Companies need people who can wear multiple hats, who can maintain as well as operate equipment. Caterpillar, in Show Low, requires people who are sound both mechanically and hydraulically to work on their equipment as well as logging equipment up here that needs to be maintained. NPC’s EIT graduates are well prepared to enter all of these jobs.” 

Abby Hunt works on the programmable logic controller trainer writing a ladder logic program to simulate a manufacturing operation.

Keith says that over the years, “I’ve seen a lot of our students go through the Mechatronics and IMO programs and gain employment. We have former students working as linemen for APS, the Salt River Project and Tucson Electric Power, and as operators at power plants in this area. Now, with the new EIT program, our students will graduate with even more skills and opportunities.” 

Westfall, who joined the NPC faculty last spring, passes on to students the vast knowledge and experience
he’s gained from years of working as a diesel and heavy equipment mechanic, building airplanes, working as a maintenance superintendent and serving as a weld engineer. “I wanted to teach and give back some of my experience to young people,” he says, adding that, “As a former local recruiter for industries, we loved hiring students from NPC because they came into the work force at a higher level than those from other colleges.”

NPC’s combination of energy and industrial education makes it unique among peer institutions and an excellent choice for students seeking to become well-rounded job candidates for careers in energy, high-tech manufacturing or industrial settings. Just two other Arizona com-munity colleges offer education in power plants and modern industry. Only four others offer education in industrial technology. The volume of learning tools and opportunities cannot be found among other community colleges in Arizona. NPC’s EIT lab features many outstanding learning stations, including automated manu-facturing devices, industrial robots, control systems, fluid power, mechanical drive, alternating current, electrical controls, motors, numerous power tools and much more! 

Both Keith and Westfall have seen all the technical training facilities around the state and many around the
country, and they rate NPC’s Holbrook Skills Center and the EIT program among the very best. Westfall says, “NPC’s facilities are the benchmark for everybody in Arizona. I saw all of the Arizona community college shops when I was an industry recruiter, and NPC’s first-class facility offers as many teaching tools as any community college. Our students have opportunities and training stations that those at other colleges do not have. For instance, our students learn to operate a steam generating trainer, an advanced hydraulic troubleshooter and a process control module that miniaturizes a large plant in order to teach students how to operate a complex system.”

Unlike technical skills schools in large urban areas, NPC’s smaller class size allows for plenty of instructor attention for each student. Students also gain another important advantage by enrolling in this NPC program: soft skills. While 80 percent of course grades are earned through lab and classroom work, the remaining 20 per-cent covers soft skills such as learning how to conduct online job searches, submitting a sound résumé that draws interviews and learning how to interview well and effectively communicate with people, all of which are crucial to each student’s future.

With many baby boomers moving toward or into retirement, power producers and industries will need to replace them to maintain an adequate work force. This means employment opportunities for EIT graduates.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that an associate degree is generally required for entry level work as an energy or industrial technician. The 2017 annual mean wage in Arizona for an electromechanical technician was $56,840.

NPC offers three different levels of education in EIT, an associate degree requiring 64 credits, a Certificate of Applied Science requiring 30-34 credits, and a Certi-ficate of Proficiency requiring 24-28 credits. Keith says that as people compete for energy and industrial jobs, it’s the applicants with associate degrees who often edge out those lacking this level of education. “The EIT pro-gram gives students all the fundamental skills to open the doors to a lot of opportunities,” says Westfall. 

Areas of specialization include: Electrical; Electrical & Instrumentation; Industrial Electrical, Motors & Programmable Logic Controllers; Industrial Mechanics & Fluid Power; Industrial Plant Operations; Instrumentation; Mechanical Maintenance; and Operations/Maintenance. With a two-year associate degree in EIT, NPC graduates have the versatility to meet the needs of today’s highly sophisticated technology settings, as specialists in large work settings or as generalists in smaller companies.

A morning class is available to high school students enrolled in the Northern Arizona Vocational Institute of Technology (NAVIT) program and two weekly night courses are offered for adult learners. 

Open the door to a better paying job and a brighter future by contacting an NPC academic adviser for  more information about this program.


Student Spotlight

Seeking a career change, Nick Weeks, is one of the many students enrolled in the new EIT pro-gram at NPC. During the past 10 years, he had worked as a counselor at a small school in Missouri and in the mental health field. He and his wife recently moved to Show Low, where he began examining new career options.

“I did some exploring of all of the programs available at NPC, and the EIT program was the most interesting. I’ve always liked working with my hands, and machines and robotics have always intrigued me,” Weeks says. “I’m really just getting started, but I like what I’ve done so far. The physical lab work is really enjoyable.”

Students are benefitting from an abundance of learning tools and machines in the lab. “I’m impressed that we have access to such a variety of machines and components in just one lab — everything from pneumatics to hydraulics to electricity to a welding robot arm! As I get into programmable logic controllers, I’m looking forward to opportunities to work with precision machining equipment,” Weeks says.

The structure of the courses also impresses Weeks. There is in-class instruction, but also independent online class work and self-directed lab work, which allows students to progress at their own pace, while instructors Kenny Keith and Kevin Westfall remain accessible for questions and help. “Both of them have a lot of experience in EIT, having worked in the field for many years, so their experience and knowledge greatly benefits the students in each of the EIT courses. It’s a great program and I would recommend it to others,” Weeks says.