ALPENA -The marine technology program at Alpena Community College is starting off on the right foot, with the first three graduates of the program being hired by Oceaneering, one of the world's largest marine technology companies based in Morgan City, La.
"It's pretty exciting for our first group of graduates to be offered this opportunity," marine tech instructor David Cummins said. "Oceaneering saw how qualified our students are right out of the program, which also helps the college build a good relationship with the company. It shows that we're on track with the needs of the industry."
Andrew Augustyn, Brandon Deroque and Mike Dunham all were offered a job after being interviewed in Alpena shortly after the international remotely operated vehicle competition.
"I think I can speak for all three of us when I say we are very excited for the opportunity to be hired by Oceaneering," Deroque said. "My experience at ACC has been great. It wasn't always easy being a part of the first group through the marine tech program, but I do feel honored to have been able to help Dave Cummins with feedback on classes and sugggestions. All three of us have been giving feedback."
Each graduate went through an interview process with Oceaneering representatives. The company was in Alpena already during the international ROV competition, and scheduled interviews with the graduates while they were here.
"We all went into the interview not really knowing what to expect," Deroque said. "They also had us take a personality test a few weeks before the interview, which tested your personality, as well as basic mathematics and problem solving type questions."
The program at ACC is a two-year associate in applied science, and has a particular emphasis on ROV operations and applied robotics.
"The program works a lot in hands-on thinking, troubleshooting and wires and hydrolic systems," Dunham said. "We learn the basics on how they work and how to fix them when problems arise. Each company has some sort of similar system with near the same problems."
There is also an on-water component and the study of ocean issues, underwater archeology and the opportunity for an internship.
"I feel very well prepared for the position after completing the program at ACC," Augustyn said. "The program has been very well set up to meet the needs of the industry and is getting better semester after semester."
Training will be a four-week process at Oceaneering where the graduates will be staying on a rig named Mr. Charlie. Upon completion of this training, each graduate will be considered an ROV junior technician, with a starting pay of around $55,000 to $60,000 a year with full benefits and a retirement plan.
"Our duties for the first year will be mostly maintaining the ROVs that Oceaneering uses," Deroque said. "We will be using our troubleshooting skills to identify and fix new problems while also performing preventative maintenance to nullify future problems."
Oceaneering has become more involved in the program at ACC by providing input on the needs of the industry to Cummins and the other staff at the college, which has grown the degree of training and education the program offers.
"It's been a great experience," Dunham said. "I liked the class sizes, and we all worked together well. I started going to college when I was 18, made it about a year and a half and said it just wasn't for me, and here I am 15 years later finally finishing. It's something I didn't really think I would do until two summers ago when I saw a story about the marine tech program and thought it sounded fun. I went there and talked about it and was interested, now here I am."
Each of the graduates will have to pass an offshore physical to be eligible for the position they were offered, and once they pass, they will go to training in the fall and start their career working with underwater robots on platform rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. The robots are used to monitor pipelines and perform preventive maintenance to avoid a spill or other potential problems.
"It's going to be a different place, but I'm definitely looking forward to it," Dunham said. "The potential for promotion and growth with the company is huge, and they have great benefits. As for the program at ACC, it's one of those things that is going to continue to get better and bigger along with the growth of marine technology."
Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.