Monday, February 15, 2010

(Anti) Social Networking

Our TEEX Strategic Plan is currently being updated, and we have incorporated a new a goal that states "Support a Multi-generational Workforce." We must have a healthy mix of experience and young energy to achieve long-term success at TEEX. And we have come to realize that using social media is a very important step in attracting young talent. I accept that. In fact, it’s part of the reason that I have a blog. However, I recently heard a report that says the youth of today prefer Facebook over blogs and other social media. That is the way of the technical generation; it is constantly changing.

I like to tell a joke that states within 20 years, people will have no use for fingers, only thumbs, which will become very long and slender to accommodate rapid texting on very small interfaces. The bottom line is that social networking, whatever its evolutionary track, is here to stay. It is basically the primary way the youth of today communicate.

I am not a social scientist, but I do know something that my wife “imposed” on our children when they were growing up. Whenever she was talking with them, the first thing she would say is, "Look me in the eyes." Our children grew up being able to confidently communicate with others face to face. In social networking, there is no “looking in the eyes;” there is no sense of body language or voice tone. It is a relatively impassionate type of communication. Sure, there are plenty of testimonials and personal reflections, but who is really there to give caring feedback and even a good old-fashioned hug? I don't know about the long-term effects, but I wonder.
We all know that there are positives and negatives to anything, and social networking is no different. There are tremendous benefits in a wide variety of ways, but my hope is that we also see the importance of real, non-virtual, face-to-face, eye-to-eye, interaction. In social networking, as in all of life, it is important to have balance. From my perspective, friends should be more than a page listing on the Internet.
Gary Sera is director of the Texas Engineering Extension Service and invites your comments.

Friday, February 5, 2010

TEEX Unexploded Ordnance Training - A Great Career

The Security and Explosives Safety (SES) training program has been established by the Public Safety and Security division of the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) to meet the needs of a growing industry related to explosives training and the mitigation and clean-up of unexploded ordnance (UXO). Courses are conducted at the Texas A&M University Rellis Campus in Bryan, Texas, and include entry-level training for UXO workers, as well as a UXO Technician - Level I course, which is taught several times throughout the year. The UXO Tech I course includes training for identifying ordnance currently in use around the world, handling and employing explosives, electric and non-electric blasting, and ordnance search techniques. UXO Technicians who complete the course receive the required certification to work on U.S. Corps of Engineers ordnance remediation sites within the United States.

We are pleased to announce that TEEX recently entered into a partnership with the International School for Security and Explosives Education (ISSEE), located in the United Kingdom (UK). This partnership allows TEEX to deliver ISSEE courses that will meet the International Mine Action Standards (IMAS). This will permit graduates to qualify for demining and UXO work around the world. Certification is accomplished through City & Guilds of London, England, and meets the United Nations requirements for pre-employment training on international remediation sites.

The partnership with ISSEE, the SES program has added 10 new courses, and the third-party certification for international workers has really provided a boost to the program and our students. The UXO industry provides a starting point for graduates of high schools or community colleges, providing the opportunity for excellent pay and the ability to travel around the United States and Puerto Rico. The international work can be divided into two tracks. First is an Improvised explosive device (IED) track. With that option, experienced bomb technicians with previous law enforcement bomb-squad experience can teach IED awareness in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq. The second is the demining track that would lead to work in areas such as Cambodia, Laos, Afghanistan, Iraq, and many countries in South America.TEEX has grown to be the top U.S. training provider in the UXO field with about 125 students per year over the last six years. The TEEX UXO program that started in the late 1990s has come a very long way, and with the addition of the partnership with ISSEE, we are planning to double the number of students trained through the domestic and international training classes. These additional training courses have increased our total catalog of SES programs to 14 separate courses.

These additional courses include Heavy Equipment Operator for Ordnance Workers, a class which is unique to TEEX. The course provides required training to the UXO community on backhoe and forklift operations in the ordnance environment, and involves the standard equipment operator coursework with a lot of hands-on practice on the different machines. The curriculum has been altered for the ordnance workers to include search and excavation of inert ordnance items like those found in a remediation site. The team is tasked to locate, excavate, and rig the ordnance item for removal. This course provides real-world training for the development of skills that are in high demand throughout the UXO industry.

TEEX’s Security and Explosives Safety Program is just another way that we serve the worldwide community by continuing to offer up-to-date training that is critical to the security and safety of the world’s citizens and to the protection of the environment.

Ed Fritz is a training coordinator for TEEX's
Public Safety & Security Training Division.