DCTC Hosts 2008 Minnesota Electrical Instructors Conference

Fifty-five instructors from colleges across the state meet to “Get Connected” and explore future of green ideas in electrical construction industry.

On Thursday, Feb. 28, Dakota County Technical College hosted the 2008 Minnesota Electrical Instructors Conference on campus in the Dakota Room. Fifty-five instructors from Minnesota’s technical colleges (plus one from North Dakota) participated in the event, which promoted a green theme to spotlight the advancement of alternative technologies in the electrical construction industry.

The conference was sponsored by the Center for Teaching and Learning, a comprehensive resource for faculty development in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.

On Friday, the two-day event moved to the campus of Minneapolis Community and Technical College, allowing participants to attend the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Realizing Student Potential Conference.

Mike Opp, DCTC dean of transportation and industry, welcomed the electrical instructors to the conference. Opp shared news stories about unusual alternative power sources, noting that “green is getting mean.”

During his opening remarks, DCTC President Ron Thomas carried on the green theme, underscoring mainstream predictions that a green-based economy holds tremendous potential for creating new businesses and jobs. Thomas reported that DCTC recently signed on to American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment. He recapped the college’s Green Campus Commitment while stressing the importance of sustainability and climate neutrality.

Ron Gruenes, an instructor in DCTC’s Electrical Construction and Maintenance Technology program, followed with a review of the conference’s agenda, which included speakers covering such topics as Delmar/Cengage Publishing, innovative power systems and the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. Gruenes also announced a tour of his programs labs and facilities.

Al Henslin, an instructor in the Construction Electrician program at Riverland Community College in Albert Lea, related that the conference’s green aspect was very interesting. “Alternative energy is the wave of the future,” he said. “Our college recently received a grant to develop solar and wind energy.”

Patrick Lee, a construction electricity instructor at Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Wadena, was also excited about the idea of going green. “This is a great way for instructors to get together and network,” he said. “We get the chance to share ideas on energy-efficient technologies.”

An instructor in the Electrical Maintenance and Construction program at Hibbing Community College, Steve Murphy was impressed with the overall green philosophy of the event. “At HCC we’ve already started in that direction with a wind generator and solar panels,” Murphy said. “I’ll be bringing back a lot of ideas from this conference.”

Mike Buck, an instructor in DCTC’s Electrical Construction and Maintenance Technology program, stated that the conference was an ideal way to combine intellectual knowledge with technical skills. He called to mind John W. Gardner, the American public servant who cautioned against a society neglecting the education of its citizens because sooner or later neither its theories nor plumbing would hold water.

“My students often ask me why they have to learn this, or why they have to know that,” Buck said. “I tell them that somebody has to know what to do—and it might as well be you.”

Another DCTC electrical instructor, Bruce Hansberger reported that the conference updated instructors on various methods of producing renewable energy, including photovoltaic panels, wind power, fuel cells, microturbines and micro-hydro generators. Textbooks, lab equipment and curriculum were also presented and discussed.

“On Thursday evening, the instructors met with John Schultz from the state governing department that regulates our industry,” Hansberger said. “Schultz was very informative about state regulations—present and proposed—that affect our industry. We concluded the conference Friday morning at MCTC with a roundtable discussion concerning the educational requirements of Minnesota college electrical programs.”

Sarah Glover, a student in DCTC’s Business program, planned the conference. A Richfield resident, Glover already has certificates in meeting and event management,business entrepreneurship, and tourism and travel. She plans to earn her A.A.S. degree in business in December 2008.

Equipped with knowledge of the National Electrical Code, graduates of the Electrical Construction and Maintenance program are prepared for apprenticeship in the electrical field. Trained to engage electrical/electronic theory in practical applications, they have the ability to install electrical services legally and safely.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the median hourly wage at $20.97 for fully trained electricians in the U.S. as of May 2006. Top earners approached $35 an hour. The education and employment Web site, iseek.org, gives $31.85 as the average hourly wage for electricians in the seven-county, Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area in the fourth quarter of 2007.