After a long break for the holidays, we are once again in full swing with the start of the spring 2015 semester here at Texas State Technical College Waco. I enjoy the time off, but I’m always eager to return to the classroom. And, it’s an exciting time to be teaching Biomedical Equipment Technology.
Our new, revised curriculum goes live in the fall. Since the state of Texas decided last year that no associate degree needs more than 60 semester hours, even technical ones (I guess all of those legislators know a lot about technical education), we have had to do a lot of revision and soul searching to ensure that the key elements of the program were left intact … and even improved. Sometimes change can be a good thing, especially when it forces you to go back over things piece by piece. And this is happening at a time when the industry seems to want more stuff included in the curriculum. Also, beginning soon, all of the Texas State Technical College campuses will have aligned curricula as the system becomes one college with many different campuses.
The number of new students this spring is slightly lower than normal, but I’m expecting that to change with more recruiting effort on our part and new attention being paid to the career field. I was glad to see the article in Money magazine including Biomedical Equipment Technicians as one of the “Five Best Jobs You’ve Never Heard Of,” although I wish they would have used Biomedical Equipment Technician instead of Medical Equipment Repairer. Hopefully, people will put it together. But it is still good attention and I will take it.
The recent downturn in oil prices will surely affect some programs here at TSTC, but I think it will benefit our program on a couple of levels. First, we will gain students. We cannot promise students that they will make $70,000 a year upon graduation like some of the programs that place people in the oil and gas business but our career field, in my opinion, has always had the edge in job satisfaction. And, from what I have been hearing from employers, the demand for our graduates will remain steady and even grow over the next several years. Second, decreasing gas prices will make it easier on our students, especially as they complete internships. Many of them travel over 80 miles (one way) several times a week to work for free and gain experience. When gas was hovering at almost $4 a gallon it was a huge problem for many of the students. Although they did complete their interships (the motivated ones always do), it created hardships for them. Gas here is averaging around $1.75 at this writing (This of course is not good for my part-time gig as a motorcycle RiderCoach. I guess motorcycle sales are down and the rush for large gas guzzling trucks has resumed … it is Texas after all).
On another note, we have been blessed with the donation of a new equipment management software program (along with full technical support and assistance with implementation and use) that will give our students real world experience with the same type of program they will be using when they graduate. And, they will get a chance to use this program with a real world assignment as they will be doing preventive maintenance and documenting it for a real hospital department (it is a smaller hospital) while they are in school with the assistance of our faculty.
We are also developing a new partnership with an OEM to provide them with quality interns and future employees. This will be good for recruiting!
And finally, speaking of faculty, I have been fortunate to work with a team with recent experience and real motivation for teaching. Slowly, but surely, it feels like I’m working myself out of a job as these folks continue to improve our program and do it without supervision. They are true professionals.
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