If the name of the game this year is adaptability, Triangle Tech has made some ambitious strides in that direction. As schools nationwide grapple with how to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic—and still offer their students the education and hands-on training they need—Triangle Tech has made some big changes both on campus and in the virtual space.
Founded in 1944, Triangle Tech is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) and today offers five trade programs at six campuses across Pennsylvania. As a school that was established with a focus on the importance of hands-on education, they had not put much of an emphasis on building virtual systems to support their programs. But that all changed, of course, earlier this year, when a viral pandemic swept across the globe and forced countless programs, systems, and processes online. Tim McMahon, Triangle Tech’s president and chief operating officer, commends the staff at all six locations for their work in transitioning some of their curricula—as well as support services from campus tours and admissions to enrollment and financial aid—online as quickly as possible.
McMahon, who has managed the school since 1972, admits that the transition online was an unexpected one for him, who has long appreciated the face-to-face, in-person, hands-on experience at Triangle Tech. But it seems like many of the changes they’ve made are here to stay—and will likely benefit the next generation of Triangle Tech students—and he’s excited for the transition. After the initial shutdown in response to statewide lockdown mandates early in the year, the school transitioned some courses and services online. They made sure that all students had Chromebooks and Wi-Fi hotspots. Two instructors trained everyone in using the Google platform and Zoom video conferencing. While they returned to 100 percent in-person services over the summer, they’re now in a hybrid model as COVID-19 continues to cause problems nationwide.
No matter what the future holds, school staff are finding that some things actually work better this way. McMahon says that the admissions process, for one thing, is much more effective in an online environment. Students are often more comfortable (and more prompt) when completing an admissions interview via videoconference rather than in person (which requires additional time to commute or to perhaps sit in a waiting room).
What else does McMahon see in the future of career training institutions? Changes are taking place on the ground too, as Triangle Tech strives to support their students both inside and outside of the classroom. One program that McMahon is particularly excited about is a grab-and-go lunch option for students on campus. The lunches offer a solution for busy students and for students who may be faced with a tighter food budget as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. With the new program, students don’t have to bear the extra responsibility of preparing that meal ahead of time, risk not eating at all, or worry about having to maintain physical distancing practices. Plus, Triangle Tech is able to support those local restaurants, who are likewise struggling during this pandemic, with regular lunch orders.
This shift we’re experiencing is also an opportunity to keep trying new things, McMahon says. The circumstances of 2020 have forced schools to do something different, and there is definitely a silver lining to be found there. Instructors, students, and administrators who were previously hesitant—or even reluctant—to shift their work or their services to an online space even just six months ago are now realizing the benefits of virtual education. It’s also prompted clearer and more frequent communication, which McMahon says has been a critical part of their success this year. The bar has been raised, and schools need to stay in constant communication to assure students, faculty, and staff that everything is under control. Now is the time to stay connected and stay relevant!
The programs at Triangle Tech are designed to be completed in just 16 months, rather than two full calendar years, preparing students to graduate with an associate in specialized technology degree. Each of the five programs offered includes hands-on training, giving students the chance to use the industry-relevant technology and equipment they’ll need to pursue job opportunities after graduation. And each program is subject to ongoing review: Triangle has a 13-member curriculum advisory committee at each of their campuses to help ensure every course is relevant for its students.
The programs at Triangle Tech all offer more than industry-relevant training, too: students get an important education in the soft skills that could make the difference in getting the job of your dreams.
“Our graduates know what to do on the job, how to be professional, how to collaborate, how to succeed,” McMahon says. “We offer them those outside-the-classroom lessons too.”
Their motto rings true: No one trains you like Triangle!
Graduates of this program know how to use CADD (computer-aided design and drafting) technology, drafting principles and fundamentals, manufacturing processes, mechanical and electrical systems, cost estimating, and job communications, specifications, and technical writing. They’re trained to become professionals who can turn concepts into precise drawings—and they’re prepared to hold jobs like entry-level drafters, CADD operators, and specification writers.
By learning about residential wiring, electric lighting, power distribution, conduit installation, cost estimating, and more, graduates of this program are prepared to succeed as residential, commercial, or industrial electricians. Triangle Tech includes a special emphasis on becoming adept at the skills that are needed outside of electrical services: troubleshooting, estimating costs, coordinating with other tradespeople on projects are all essential to succeeding in the industry.
The RHVAC program is a great opportunity to gain the skills students need to become RHVAC technicians in both residential and commercial environments. Students learn about the refrigeration, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems—including how they work, how to troubleshoot issues, how to read blueprints and controls, and how to estimate costs. Students get to combine hands-on training with the theory of how these complex systems operate.
For students who are interested in becoming entry-level carpentry and construction technicians in either residential or commercial environments, this program helps them get the skills they need. Using both tried-and-true craftsmanship traditions and modern construction methods, students learn the basics like tools and safety, reading blueprints, and construction contracts—as well as drywall installation, millwork, cabinet making, stair construction, and floor, wall, and roof framing.
Welding technicians need a variety of important and specialized skills to succeed. This program helps students prepare for all of them: metallurgy, metal identification, metal surfacing, steel fabrication, pipe welding and fitting, and arc welding processes are all part of the curriculum. In addition, students also learn how to read blueprints, understand layout, and use computer applications. Students complete the AWS (American Welding Society) and the ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) certification exams before graduating.
To learn more about Triangle Tech, their programs, and their adaptations in the time of COVID-19, visit www.triangle-tech.edu.
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