Tech college adding program in industrial maintenance

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By Nathan L. McBroom

Staff photo by Nathan L. McBroom

Bruce Gambrel pointed out to Keegan Kaelin how to use a machine at the Jefferson County Technical College Shelby County campus on Wednesday.

In a time when many local industries are down sizing, the local technical college is adding on to the industrial programs it offers for local students.

Starting in January, the Jefferson County Community Technical College Shelby County campus will add an industrial maintenance associate’s degree to its student catalog.

The degree will require students to obtain 66 hours in general and industrial studies and will prepare them to operate, fix, repair and install machines at industrial facilities.

All of the classes can be taken at the local campus on Frankfort Road.

Bruce Gambrel, associate professor of machine tool technology, said the addition of the program has been three years in the making.

Gambrel said industrial maintenance jobs are currently in high demand. He said local students and area industries will be well served by the addition of the new program.

“They [local industries] are begging for us to start offering these courses in this degree because there simply are not many people out there with these skills,” he said.

The program is designed to equip students to use high-tech diagnostic computers and tools to find out what is causing a machine to malfunction and then fix the problem.

That means that the student not only has to know how to work the machine but also how it works and how to fix it.

With these skills, Gambrel said, not only are these jobs in this field in demand, but they also tend to pay rather well to boot.

Gambrel got a first-hand reminder of how valuable an industrial maintenance job can be last week when one of the school’s expensive welding machines stopped working.

After the machine shut down, Gambrel called a Louisville company that specializes in industrial maintenance to come service the machine.

Two hours later, if any of Gambrel’s students had any doubts about the viability of a degree in industrial maintenance, they were long gone.  

“He made $425 in two hours – without buying any parts – just knowledge and labor. That’s not bad at all. And that’s the norm,” he said.

Students who are currently in another industrial arts degree program can transfer into the industrial maintenance degree. Gambrel said because of the interrelatedness of the programs many of the classes, such as blueprint reading and technical math will easily transfer.

Gambrel said despite a rocky economy, skilled labor positions are still available and in demand. That’s what makes him especially glad that the school is offering the new program.

“As soon as they graduate, if not before, there will be jobs waiting for them,” he said.

The school will also be offering an apprenticeship with the program.

Classes begin Jan. 12. For the spring semester, classes in the industrial maintenance degree will only be offered during the day, but night classes will be offered in the future.

An additional instructor will be hired in the coming weeks to teach the new courses.