There are 28 primary Industrial Assessment Centers located at colleges and universities across the country.
When Mary McElhiney, vice president of business operations at ERS, is looking for new hires for her energy efficiency engineering firm she knows exactly where to look – the Energy Department’s Industrial Assessment Center (IAC) program.
ERS, headquartered in North Andover, Massachusetts, was founded by an IAC graduate. Its core services of energy program evaluation, engineering assistance, planning and implementation, and sustainable development help utility, government, and large commercial and industrial clients solve energy and resource problems in cost effective ways. Thirteen of its 94 employees are IAC graduates.
Industrial Assessment Centers
There are 28 primary IACs located at colleges and universities around the country. These centers send engineering students, supervised by faculty, to small and medium-sized manufacturers to provide energy assessments and recommendations for cost- and energy-savings solutions. With the professors’ guidance, these students analyze manufacturers’ facilities, energy bills, waste and water systems and more.
Industrial Assessment Center Impact
To date, more than 17,000 manufacturers have benefited from IAC assessments. An average IAC assessment leads to a 5-7% implemented energy savings and energy productivity improvement. Through each assessment, IAC students apply their engineering knowledge and skills to analyze a unique set of circumstances. No two assessments are the same, instead students learn how to adapt and solve problems.
The Perfect Match
When McElhiney came to the company 12 years ago, it was very difficult to find engineers who understood the energy management work that the company did. IACs became a recruiting ground because they already had the hands-on experience ERS seeks to provide its clients with the valuable skills needed to meet their business needs.
Satyen Moray, an engineer with ERS at the Rock Hill, Connecticut facility, has been with the company for 15 years. Moray, is also an IAC graduate from the University of Dayton and credits the program with getting him where he is today.
He said he could study textbooks and course materials all day long, but to actually see it is a whole different awareness. During the IAC program, he visited roughly 50 facilities.
“The hands-on nature is instrumental,” said Moray.
Marcus Wilcox couldn’t agree more.
Wilcox is CEO of Cascade Energy, which helps to provide technical services for energy efficiency programs. He co-founded the Portland, Oregon-based company in 1993 and has 120 employees, nine of which are IAC graduates. Wilcox was the first student to join and graduate from the Energy Analysis Diagnosis Center, now known as the Oregon State University IAC. He believes the IAC program changed his future.
“It taught me how to be an engineer in the real world by mapping all the knowledge I had and put it in the context of experience,” he said.
Today, Wilcox’s advice to students going through the IAC program is simple. He suggests students gain field work experience because there’s real value working with real processes, problems, and people.
He also notes that graduates will be working with people who have been doing their jobs for decades. Energy might not be a priority for some clients and graduates need to learn how to explain the value of energy management practices. Finally, he says skip using the smartphone, email, and social media because personal contact and building relationships will help graduates strengthen their professional skills and their work will be that much more enjoyable.
It was similar advice that has been priceless for Moray.
“It was the best learning [experience] I received in my whole life,” he said.
Moray is a perfect example of why McElhiney continues to rely on IAC graduates to help make the business a success.
“IACs have experience in exactly what we’re doing because they’ve done it before,” she said. “They help these companies even before they come here. I’m a big advocate for the IAC program.”