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How ISA Will-DuPage, local junior college are working together to educate future engineers

June 5, 2019
Amanda Del Buono interviews ISA Will-DuPage, JJC PCIT leaders about the joint program

Amanda Del Buono interviews David Riojas, president of the PCIT advisory board and past president of the ISA Will-DuPage chapter; Jeff Bradford, Joliet Junior College (JJC) technical department chair; and Joe Limon, PCIT instructor who was named Staff Member of the Year last year at JJC, about the joint program to educate young process automation technicians.


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Amanda Del Buono: Welcome back to Manufacturing Tomorrow’s Workforce. Today we have a round table interview with a group of gentlemen from the ISA Will-DuPage chapter and Joliet Junior College in Joliet, Ill., who are working together to train students for careers in process automation.

The Process Control and Instrumentation Technology (PCIT) program at JJC started less than a decade ago with the goal of preparing students for jobs like control systems development technicians, controls and instrumentation technicians, and the like. Not only does the program get students ready for a career, it also provides networking to the extent that many students leave the program with job offers in-hand.

I took a ride over to JJC to get more insight on the program and see where it’s going as the need for an educated workforce is growing. In this interview, David Riojas, president of the PCIT advisory board and past president of the ISA Will-DuPage chapter; Jeff Bradford, JJC technical department chair; and Joe Limon, PCIT instructor who was named Staff Member of the Year last year at JJC, share how the program developed, what it does and where it’s going.

Here’s the interview.

So today, I'm being joined by David Riojas, Jeff Bradford and Joe Limon, who are all key players in the Joliet Junior College PCIT program with the ISA. Thank you for joining me today, guys.

Jeff Bradford: Thanks for having us.

David Riojas: Thanks for having us.

Joe Limon: Thanks for having us.

AD: So, just to get started, how did the ISA Will-DuPage and JJC come together to start this program?

DR: I think it would probably be Ed Myers. So, Ed Myers was a longstanding ISA board of director member, and he started teaching classes out here, geez how long ago?

JB: At least 30/35 years ago. A long time ago.

DR:  And I think he was really the one that kind of founded the instrumentation program itself, if I’m correct.

JB: I think you're right, because ED worked at Citco 45 years, retired back in I think 2013/2014. He taught for us part time. I mean, well, and I've been here 20 something years. He predated me by at least a decade or two, and we had one instrumentation class and he taught that class and he kept pushing and pushing and pushing. And through his leadership, we actually think he combination with the ISA and program advisory board, started a certificate and a degree program out here.

AD: So, when students leave here, they go with a full degree, an associate’s degree, then?

JB: There's associates degree and also a five-course certificate.

JL: Yes.

AD: So, they're set to get a career in the industry when they leave here?

JB: Yes.

JL: That’s what we're leveraging them for is to be able to enter into manufacturing in that area using this education, this program.

DR: You know, actually, I don't know, was there a night advisory board prior toe at bringing us on about six years ago?

JB: I don't think so. Yeah, I don't know. I've been here for a while, but I just took over the department about three years ago. I’m a mechanical maintenance guy by trade. So, I don't know the full backstory.

DR: So, about six years ago, he asked a bunch of us an industry and he asked a number of us on the ISA board of directors to join the advisory board for the PCIT program with the idea that we were going to help him review the curriculum and make sure that it's meeting the needs of the industry. So, we're really lucky that he did that because about a year after we formed the advisory board, he's fell over and died one day, unfortunately he passed very unexpectedly, and had he not put that advisory board together, I don't know that this program would still exist.

JB: I think that's an accurate statement.

DR: Yeah, so there's a lot to be said for Ed Meyers and what he did to put this program together. As a matter of fact, there's a plaque over there with his name and there's a scholarship fund in his name here at the college.

AD: That's great. It's good thing you had that foresight too.

DR: Yeah, exactly. He had a huge influence on this program, and he still does today.

AD: Well, when he kind of did this, was this really driven by him? Or was there also a need from, you know, local organizations in the ISA that were looking for students?

JL: I think from an industry standpoint, there was a need. That's how I ended up out here. So, I'm post Ed Meyers. I didn't know him personally. Heard a lot about him. But at the time, I was looking for instrument techs for my company, where I work at, and they were hard to find and kind of fell into this program here that they had this here. Well kind of coincidentally at the same time they were looking for help. Hence, that's how I ended up error to help him out, and that was 2014. Just come out and give us a hand.

AD: have you found this, coming from industry on and you have a company outside of here, have you found that you've been able to kind of recruit students out of here?

JL: Oh, yes. So yeah, I came out here to help, but no, angel, we hired six of them. But they’ve moved on since. So, the goal, believe or not, it is their interest, their best interest, what's good for them. And I think the program that's really that's what we're here for us to give them the tools to succeed out in industry, to the point where some of them has had better to itself since coming out to our company. Moving on to maybe something else that they have more of a passion for.

DR: Now, Ed I think again was also, he had an ulterior motive that he was looking before techs for Citgo. So, he was cherry picking the best ones out of the program. But he was teaching classes out at Citco for technicians for years and years before he was teaching here. So again, a lot of it goes back to Ed and kind of what he started.

JL: Exactly. So, it's really hard to be unbiased, but I do try. I do try to keep the bias out of it, although a lot of students do come our way. But they also go all over. We’re kind of sprinkled all over the area.

For more, tune in to the Manufacturing Tomorrow’s Workforce podcast.

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