PRCC tailors block format to students’ work schedules

POPLARVILLE – Working while going to college can be difficult and stressful but Pearl River Community College’s instrumentation technology program provides an easy way to move into a good-paying job.

The program operates on a block schedule of two-week classes, giving students the option of working during the off weeks.

“Without the block format, most of us couldn’t afford to go to school,” said Conner Johnson of the Carnes community. “I had some friends who told me about it.”

Johnson and two classmates who will complete associate’s degrees in December work for the Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVO) at Stennis Space Center.

“We’re starting a career with this program,” said Warren Buehler of Bay St. Louis. “I saw where some guys I work with came through this program, so I went to school.”

The three make about $20,000 a year right now but when they become full-time employees they’ll make up to $45,000 annually, with overtime and travel pay for five- to six-month hitches on Navy research vessels.

“We’ll get to see the world, too,” said Duffy Smith of Poplarville. “There are great job opportunities in this field.”

Thirteen of the 16 students currently enrolled in the instrumentation technology program work and five are doing supervised work experience, similar to an intership, said instructor Ellie Ratliff.

In addition to NAVO, students work at Griner Drilling and Southern Mesasurement Communications, both in Columbia, and offshore.

“The block format allows non-traditional students the opportunity to learn along with networking and industry experience opportunities,” Ratliff said.

Until a few weeks ago, Tanya Stevens of Foxworth worked as an offshore galley hand while going to school.

“My rotation was 14-and-14 so that allowed me to make up anything I missed during my hitch,” she said.

Stevens had been taking basic courses on-line while working offshore and was considering quitting work to go to school full-time.

“I coudn’t have done a regular schedule and paid the bills,” she said. “I was scared.”

Ratliff convinced her the block schedule would work and it did. When Stevens married a few weeks ago, her financial pressures eased and she quit working to finish her degree in a field she’s excited about entering.

“There are lots of options,” she said. “I could take it offshore or find a job close to the house.”

PRCC’s electronics program also uses the block format. For information about either, call 601 403-1101.

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