Ohio Governor Mike DeWine visited Zane State College’s Electrical Engineering Technology Laboratory this week to learn about the university’s Electrical Engineering Technology in Protection and Control program.
The program, which teaches students to work on the parts of the electrical grid that protect the grid itself, is one of the few in the country of its kind, and the only one to provide a bachelor of science degree in the field.
Marketta Franklin-Thomas, AEP’s director of employee learning and development, said the demand for skilled labor is “huge. We have to make sure we have a continuously flowing source of talent” from places like Zane State College. Community partnerships, like the one between AEP and Zane State, are critical, she said.
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AEP accredited for helping the success of the program
AEP was instrumental in starting the program and helping make it a success. The company donated a DICM, a direct control module, to Zane State in 2020 while the program was under development. About the size of a one-car garage, the module is packed with exactly the same controls found in other DICMs, which are the “brains” of an electrical substation. The donation saved the university a $1 million investment in a DICM. The program was also funded by a grant from the Ohio Middle East Government Association and grants from the Appalachia Governor’s Office, JobsOhio, and the Ohio Department of Higher Education’s RAPIDS program.
Several AEP employees are adjunct professors at Zane State, including Mike Waite, who explained the program to the governor during DeWine’s visit. Waite is a protection and control manager at AEP and was instrumental in bringing DICM to the university. Students in the protection and control program can graduate and go to work at utilities, he said, or any company that has a lot of electricity. The jobs are in demand and pay well, upwards of $60,000 per year.
Jacob Cohen of Zanesville was a member of the programs’ first graduating class in May and quickly found a job with AEP. “Our labs directly correlate to what you’re going to do in the field,” he said.
The governor said the continued evolution of education in the state is vital to continuing to attract new business investment. “You can offer companies the moon,” DeWine said, “and they won’t come if they don’t think they can find the employees. In many cases, that means employees with a certain title or experience.”
DeWine said community colleges are working closer than ever with companies. “They’re more focused on matching skills, what they’re teaching in college, so that person can get a job. The best way to do that is by working directly with the business community.”