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Sunday, May 3, 2009

BTC's hands-on Experience A Plus for Returning Student

The following article was in the Bellingham Herald today, Sunday May 3rd, about chapter safety officer Mike Gilbert.


Michael Gilbert, 53, Bellingham, since 1998

When times are tough, and companies are laying workers off, showing the initiative to improve your skills and gain new ones can greatly increase your value to a company, as well as offer opportunities to advance.

Where he works: Multicultural Radio Broadcasting, Inc. (MRBI), in Blain

For how long: Since 2000

His background: Gilbert started working for MRBI in 2000 as a broadcast engineer. After helping the company build its KVRI radio station in Blaine, he went back to school at Bellingham Technical College to earn an electronics degree. The two-year program made him more valuable to the company, he says. "It opened a lot of doors," he says. Gilbert went from working part time with the company to a full-time position as a regional broadcast engineer. Since completing his BTC program, he has also earned a Bachelor's and Master's degree in electrical engineering through correspondence programs.

What he got out of the BTC program: Gilbert appreciated the program's opportunity for hands-on experience. He says the classes taught him to do component-level repair of electrical boards, a skill that comes in handy when companies try to save costs by repairing, rather than replacing, electrical boards. "In today's economy, you'll get the nod if you can do component level repair, versus someone who doesn't understand how to do that and will just swap things out," he says.

His advice for others: "Just do it," he says. "You'd be surprised at the opportunities out there and you have nothing to lose."
What was challenging about the program: For Gilbert, going back to school as an older adult was difficult. Getting into a study regiment and going to classes every day was something he needed to adjust to. He says communicating with younger students was also a challenge, especially when they assumed he would have more knowledge simply because he was older.

An experience that best prepared him for the program: Familiarity with electrical boards and components from his previous position at MRBI.

His career goals: "I'm there," Gilbert says. "I made my career goals."

• Know what you want out of the program based on the question, "What do I need?"
• Talk to counselors to figure out where to get more training - do you need to get a four-year degree, or can you just do it in two years?

Heidi Schiller is a Bellingham freelance writer.

To read the article on line, go to:

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