TJC program changing way energy industry students learn - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

TJC program changing way energy industry students learn


An East Texas college is changing the way students entering the energy field are taught.

The Luminant Academy at Tyler Junior College announced the graduation of its first class of 20 students from its two-year-old Power Track program.

The company says the new program provides the hands-on training that students need to work in the energy industry once they graduate.

"At least half of their time is spent out in the technical training lab where they actually get to work hands on with the piece of equipment," said Luminant Academy Director Dirk Hughes.

The two-year associate's degree program provides full scholarships and a summer internship for students at one of the company's power plants.

"We're pulling from the communities around our plants and mines and bringing them here to TJC," said Luminant CEO Mac McFarland. "We're giving them the education, then they're going home with the skills they need to succeed."

The 24,000-square-foot facility opened in 2006 at Tyler Junior College's West Campus. In it, students can train on simulators that allow them to get hands-on training without a company having to slow down their own operations. Luminant says the $1.7 million dollar facility has paid for itself, having saved the company $22 million in just the last two years.

For students, the financial benefits after graduation are a big draw.

"My parents individually don't make as much as what I will make," said Luminant Academy graduate Fabian Trujillo. "They've worked at their jobs for so many years and that's where I'll be starting out, above their pay. And I can work higher from there."

"It's the best feeling to know that you're not in debt," said Robert E. Lee senior Rikki Ward, who is entering the program next year. "You don't have to worry about loans. You don't have to worry about payments that last forever."

Officials say it's a win-win situation to meet the need for skilled energy workers for years to come.

"When you flip on the switch, you want the lights to come on," said McFarland. "You don't think about how. A lot of people don't think about the power plants, how they operate and how we provide electricity, but it is an absolute need for the Texas economy."

The school says they just accepted its third class of about 30 students out of more than 300 applicants.

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