Depot employees teach students tricks of the trade
June 2, 2008
TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa.-Students from the Monroe Career and Technical Institute (MCTI) teamed up with depot employees to learn about different career opportunities available at Tobyhanna.
Twenty-six high school juniors and seniors participated in the Equal Employment Office's Shadow Program to gain first-hand knowledge of occupations in security, electronics, carpentry, computer technology, vehicle repair and metal trades.
Members of EEO developed this program for students ages 16 and older. Participants were selected based on their career interests and visited various work areas. This year, 16 depot employees volunteered to mentor the teenagers during the four-month program. Visits are scheduled from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. once a month from February through May.
"We're very excited to have our students participate in job shadowing at Tobyhanna," said Patricia Moyer, MCTI director. "The opportunity for students to see the relationship between what they are learning in the classroom and its application in the workplace is priceless."
Furthermore, as students plan for their next step, it is important that they consider opportunities in their communities that pay family-sustaining wages, and provide a clean, safe work environment, Moyer remarked.
MCTI provides secondary and post-secondary career training, and boasts 34 areas of study and opportunities to earn free college credits toward an advanced degree. The facility serves students in the East Stroudsburg, Pleasant Valley, Pocono Mountain and Stroudsburg School Districts.
"It's important for the youth who live around here to know what Tobyhanna has to offer," said John Sutkowsky, equal employment manager. "Shadowing helps the students realize it's possible to build a career while working in a job they love without moving away."
The programs offered at MCTI have a direct correlation to employment opportunities at Tobyhanna, such as computer networking and security, collision repair, diesel mechanics, electronics, electrical plumbing, HVAC welding and precision machining, Moyer explained.
"In the vocational programs, students learn entry-level skills which allow them to engage the expertise of experienced workers at Tobyhanna, so that the skill level of the students can be greatly improved," she said.
Depot leaders think that it's beneficial for students to see the workplace and experience it rather than just be told about it. Ruben Fabunan, Man Portables Branch chief encouraged employees to get involved with the Shadow Program.
Fabunan believes that participation in the program indicates that Tobyhanna's not only interested in the local community, but its youth.
Interested students toured the depot before signing up for the Shadow Program. Each had to fill out forms, get parental permission and complete an application prior to selection.
"These kids were so excited about the program," said Tamara Marinaro, Shadow Program coordinator. "They know that what they're learning at school is what they want to do as a career. Shadowing employees here lets them see how their skills apply to their future job."
Anthony Lammardo, a senior studying electronics technology, observed the disassembly of a remote-order wire control unit under the supervision of his mentor. In addition to providing workplace exposure, Josephine Russin also spent the day explaining department processes, how to handle work orders and respond to customers needs. Russin is an electronic mechanic in the Communications Systems Directorate.
"This was a great experience," said Lammardo, who plans to start classes at Northampton Community College for Electronics in the fall. "Josephine was very nice and taught me a lot. I'd love to return to Tobyhanna someday as an employee." Lammardo is a student at Pocono Mountain West High School who plans to apply for the Student Career Experience Program (SCEP) following graduation.
"The potential for our students is tremendous," said Chris Roberto, MCTI electronics instructor, explaining that students can leave the school with as many as 12 college credits, matriculate into colleges and apply to SCEP. Full-time employment at the depot becomes possible once the student meets the education and training requirements, he added.
There were dozens of employees who wanted to help teach the students about their chosen career field. Some volunteered, others happened to be in the right place at the right time.
William Moody didn't volunteer to be a mentor, but took advantage of the opportunity when mission requirements kept a coworker from participating.
"I mentored young adults while serving in the Air Force and always found the experience enjoyable," he said. "It's also a great way to give back to the younger generation, who someday may follow in our career footsteps." Moody is a network manager who works in the Information Management Directorate.
Dean Girgenti accompanied Moody on a tour of the organization as Moody responded to work order requests to activate a local-area network drop and configure a management station to monitor a newly installed switch on the network. Girgenti is a senior at Pocono Mountain East High School and plans to attend classes at Northampton Community College this fall.
"Dean already has his networking-plus certification and showed a great deal of knowledge on computer networking," Moody said. "I believe the Shadow Program gave him some knowledge of the practical application of networking in the real world."
The Electro-Optics/Night Vision Division hosted two students also interested in electronics technology.
James Mazziotta, a junior at Pocono Mountain East High School and Anthony Smith, a senior at Stroudsburg High School, learned about state-of-the-art electronics tools used here. Both students also took a tour of the work area and talked to employees with varied backgrounds.
"They have a machine that diagnoses what is wrong with a circuit and shows how to fix it," Smith said. "This was a great experience; everyone was so friendly."
Mazziotta agreed. "The experience was great," he said, explaining that his mentor was patient and even funny.
Another depot employee wanted to be a mentor because someone was always willing to show him the tricks of the trade throughout his career. Scott Uher taught Chris Delegram, a junior from Pleasant Valley High School, how to read blueprints, and explained the tools and other skills needed on the job. Uher is a welder in the Systems Integration and Support Directorate.
"Knowledge is meant to be passed on, the same way it was passed on to me," Uher said. "Getting the younger generation interested in well-paying trades should be a concern to everyone."
Tobyhanna Army Depot is the Defense Department's largest center for the repair, overhaul and fabrication of a wide variety of electronics systems and components, from tactical field radios to the ground terminals for the defense satellite communications network. Tobyhanna's missions support all branches of the Armed Forces.
About 5,600 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania.
Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army CECOM Life Cycle Management Command. Headquartered at Fort Monmouth, N.J., the command's mission is to research, develop, acquire, field and sustain communications, command, control, computer, intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors capabilities for the Armed Forces.