NORFOLK, Neb. - “The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.” That “little extra,” as quoted by NFL Hall of Fame Coach Jimmy Johnson, is something that seems to resonate well with Ty Goodrich, a Northeast Community College student in his second year in the Electromechanical Technology program.
“My family has taught me to not give up and always keep going,” he said. “I feel weird if I’m not always going.”
Goodrich, who was born and raised in Dallas, Tex., moved to Greeley, Neb., during his senior year in high school where he graduated from Central Valley Public Schools in 2018. During the year, he met with a school counselor on his desire to look for a career where he could use his hands and apply his mechanical aptitude on projects.
The counselor worked to find areas of interest for all seniors at Central Valley with the understanding that in a smaller rural setting, not everyone may be interested in pursuing a four-year degree. Goodrich said she focused on community colleges and had him look into visiting Northeast Community College in Norfolk during one of its Applied Technology division career days.
“I went to see the Electrical Construction and Control, Electromechanical and Automotive Technology programs, but I fell in love with electromechanical because I have an interest in hands-on work with computers. It’s always what I wanted to do.”
Goodrich enrolled at Northeast in Fall 2018 and settled into the program that trains students skills to install, maintain, and repair complex industrial equipment. In addition, instructors focus on troubleshooting electrical and electronic systems, manufacturing processes, hydraulic and pneumatic operations, motor and logic controls, power transmissions, and robotics and automated systems, among other principles.
Approximately one month into his second year in Oct. 2019, Goodrich attended an Applied Technology Career Fair on the Norfolk campus where employers visited with students regarding prospective employment opportunities. His initial meeting with representatives from BD (Becton, Dickinson and Co.) in Broken Bow turned into a job internship that continues to this day.
“They reached out to me and were active in looking for students and possible internships and possible careers.”
In Feb. 2020, Goodrich began factoring in his work schedule with his class schedule at Northeast which meant extreme discipline on his part since the distance between the Northeast campus and the BD facility is 160 miles or a three-hour, one-way journey.
He dove in head first, making the drive to Broken Bow after class on Thursdays, which includes a stop in his hometown along the way. Once at BD, which manufactures a third of the world’s blood collection tubes among other medical equipment, Goodrich begins clocking in full-time on Fridays and Saturdays, working 32-hours every two-weeks. On Sundays, he’s back on the road, first stopping in Greeley and then back to Norfolk to begin the following week’s classes at Northeast.
“I was getting involved in several projects at BD working on what were the newest and best safety systems,” he said. “I was able to program an entire safety upgrade. I guess I just took advantage of the opportunity.”
A slowdown during the pandemic allowed Goodrich to refine his skills and gain more experience working for the medical equipment manufacturer.
“BD is a good company that has invested in the future - and even through the pandemic, the company invested into upgrading and making their equipment better throughout that entire time. I was able to work on more projects while the lines were not running, including safety upgrades and troubleshooting on equipment that dates back to the 1960s to today’s modern machines,” Goodrich said. “They told me I caught on fairly fast so they wanted me to continue learning through programming, which is the next step up from troubleshooting.”
From there, Goodrich moved into learning additional design controls and programs. His first project was with a specialized camera used in manufacturing automation, followed by a task to program an OSHA-related safety upgrade on a top-of-the-line machine. He said this particular work allowed him to comprehend the importance of safety in industry and how to properly create an accurately developed safety circuit.
“So, I learned a lot in the design aspects of machines, which especially helped me as I came back to Northeast when we covered troubleshooting in our labs.”
Shanelle Grudzinski, dean of Applied Technology at Northeast, said students such as Goodrich are exactly what industry is looking for. She said the demand for a trained workforce has not waned.
“The technological innovation and skills needed to fill those jobs, however, has grown exponentially. Northeast faculty are routinely undergoing professional development to ensure they can pass along the necessary knowledge and hands-on experiences to students to meet the workforce needs of both today and tomorrow,” Grudzinski said. “Industry partners are more vital than ever to that success by helping to connect students to strong career opportunities and bridge workforce readiness skills and technology advances.”
For students to truly be prepared for today’s workforce, they must have a deep understanding of and be able to apply content knowledge learned in the classroom and labs. Grudzinski said academic content is only one part of the recipe for success for many programs at Northeast.
“Cooperative internships and on-the-job training make up the other piece, as it allows students to put their classroom knowledge to practice in a professional environment, cultivate problem-solving and managing difficult work situations, and foster life skills and teamwork. It further enables students to bring their experiences back to the classroom where it enriches instruction as they complete their degree.”
Goodrich concurs. He said the opportunity afforded to him to work at BD has allowed him to get comfortable in programming projects as he continues his education at Northeast. His first-year classes served as a good base for his internship.
“I learned enough on how to troubleshoot through things like relays that allowed me to learn the basics of PLC’s (programmable logic controllers) to build off that knowledge. It was a good stepping stone to keep gaining that knowledge.”
Combined with the internship and his education, Goodrich has used the past two-years as “building blocks” in honing his skills. He credits labs in Northeast’s Applied Technology building in affording him the opportunity to put into place what is taught in theory classes.
“You have to fight through what you don’t know. You have to be able to figure it out and not just sit there and ask questions,” he said. “And that’s what the labs are for. You have time to figure it out. The labs give us real world simulation; it’s as close as we can get. You will learn through the program and then go out into industry and get to the point where you are competent to do the work and succeed in industry.”
Once he graduates with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Electromechanical, Goodrich would like to earn his bachelor’s degree in order to move up in companies like BD. He has a desire to obtain a role as an engineer at BD and work his way up through the company.
“I have met a whole bunch of good people. My instructors have been really good teachers in giving me a basic knowledge that has allowed me to get my foot in the door at BD. And now I see my education and my industry experience as just the tip of the iceberg in allowing me to move forward from here.”
Ty Goodrich, an electromechanical student at Northeast Community is pictured on the floor of the BD (Becton, Dickinson and Co.) plant in Broken Bow recently. Goodrich, of Greeley, attends college at Northeast in Norfolk Mondays-Thursdays, while working in a job internship at BD in Broken Bow on Fridays and Saturdays. (Courtesy Becton, Dickinson and Co.)