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Readiness Enabler for Operational Forces  •
MCA workers vie for state honors

By Art Powell | | March 13, 2008

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When Bonnie Matthews and Michelle Rodriguez met on the job at Maintenance Center Albany two years ago, they never thought they’d be coaching each other on how to win state level competition in the Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership program.

 As two of four Albany Technical College GOAL finalists, they’re honing their presentations they’ll make to a group of business leaders at the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce who will decide which one of the four goes to Atlanta May 20 to compete for the state title that includes a first prize of a new car.

 “Everyone in our shop roots for us,” said Matthews, as her co-worker and fellow-finalist Rodriguez watched.

 The GOAL program recognizes exceptional technical college students from across the state for their excellence and personal achievement. It also spotlights the role of technical training in the economy.

 The recipient of the state level GOAL award is recognized as the Technical College System of Georgia’s Student of the Year. The winner also serves as an ambassador of technical education in Georgia.

 Matthews, who worked at MCA as a contractor for a year-and-a-half and has been in the Student Career Experience Program for less than a year, and Rodriguez were contractors at MCA and students in Business Logistics Management at Albany Technical College when they entered the SCEP, a type of co-op program at MCA.

 Now, they’re finalists in the GOAL program. Twelve students were nominated by their instructors at Albany Technical College and four were selected as semi-finalists. One of the four finalists will be selected to participate in the state competition. Another MCLB Albany employee, Michael Henderson, was also one of the 12 nominees in the GOAL program.

 “Each of the more than 30 technical colleges in the state offers the GOAL program,” said Dan Nash, the SCEP coordinator at MCA, who is also operations manager, Trades Department, MCA.

 “There are 12 career fields we pull students from into the SCEP program here, from Albany Technical College, Middle Georgia Technical College, South Georgia Technical College and Moultrie Technical College, with plans to add more,” he added.

 The SCEP program is designed to bring developing new employees into the work force with state-of-the-art vocational training. The program is set up for students to attend local vocational schools as a full-time student while working daily at the maintenance center with journeymen-level employees.

 These students learn to apply the practical application of the skills they are learning in their vocational classroom. Each student is rotated through the maintenance center in accordance with a training plan designed for that student.

 The training plan is designed to expose the student to all aspects of the trade skills in their job series.

 Nash said the SCEP panel, comprised of himself and four other managers, are now evaluating 58 applications and the process to bring additional students into the SCEP at MCA. This process occurs three times a year. Once selected and at work at MCA, they are evaluated by their supervisors on work ethics, team work, attendance and performance. These evaluations are critical in determining if they progress in the program.

 “I have to evaluate my SCEP students every month, while I evaluate other employees twice a year,” said John Lambert, Matthews’ and Rodriguez’s supervisor, who works in the Material Production Control Work Center, MCA.

 “When they finish school and have completed their time in SCEP, we have 120 days to decide if we’ll make them regular employees, if they are qualified and if there’s work available,” added Lambert.

 Being brought into MCA as a SCEP student is a promising track toward career/ career conditional employment.

 The SCEP has been a very successful program, said Nash. He explained that it benefits the maintenance center by bringing the newest training, skills and technology into an aging workforce. Many of the maintenance center journeymen-level employees received their training 20-plus years ago.

 Since starting the program, 60 or more students have successfully graduated from their school and completed their assigned on-the-job training. As a result of the SCEP program, most all of these employees have been promoted to permanent positions in their field of study.

 “If we hire a co-op, we think the workload is there for them and we plan to offer them a job if things work out,” said Nash.

 Regardless of how Matthews and Rodriguez do in the state GOAL competition, if they finished their college work and have good reviews from Lambert, they’ll go into the civil service program as general schedule employees.

 Rodriguez, a supply technician with one quarter left toward finishing work on her degree from Albany Technical College, is the daughter of a career Marine. She has worked three years as a contractor at MCA and has been in the co-op program for a year.

 “I entered the (SCEP) program because I wanted to go back to school and then achieve permanent work status at MCA,” she said.

 “The things I needed to know to work as a contractor helped me prepare for becoming a civilian employee,” she stated.

 As far as appearing before a panel at the chamber of commerce for a shot at the state finals in GOAL program, Rodriguez summed it up in one word.

 “Cool,” she said.

 Their chamber presentation is a three-minute speech on a topic they drew at random from a list.

 Rodriguez’ topic is “What are my goals and how will I achieve them?”

 “We’re practicing our presentations with our teachers right now,” added Matthews, who is from Sylvester, Ga.

 The students receive critiques from their Albany Technical College teachers, but have to write the material themselves.

 “We had to put our ideas on paper and the teachers helped us with it,” said Matthews.

 After their speeches, they’ll answer questions from the chamber panel.

 Matthews’s topic for her speech to the chamber group is “Out of all the educational options available today, why did you pick technical?”

 Her theme for her speech describes the opportunities she sees with a technical degree.

 “I can accomplish in two years at a technical college what it would take me four years at another college,” said the supply technician.

 The duo works at least 40 hours a week at MCA, Matthews supporting the special projects program and Rodriguez in line-side stock.

 Their college work and labors at MCA are on their minds, but, at this point, so is a new car for winning first place in the GOAL program.


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