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PHCC develops IT internship program
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Barney Nester (left), director of IT Operations of Bassett Furniture, stands with Michael Gravely (right), a former Patrick Henry Community College student and Old Dominion University graduate, inside the server room at Bassett Furniture. (Contributed photo)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Two local businesses want recent graduates to know there are job opportunities available here at home.

Bassett Office Supply and Bassett Furniture are offering Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) students a chance to get their feet wet in the field of information technology (IT), according to a release from PHCC.

Both businesses contacted PHCC officials for potential interns. Marti Phillips, a professor of information systems technology, said she was excited for the opportunity.

“It’s wonderful to have local companies who are interested in our students,” she said in the release. “I feel like our students have the possibility of good employment locally, and that’s wonderful. For so many years, many of our students feel like they have to move to get a job. These students are grateful for the opportunity.”

Robin Crowder is spending her summer with Manly Boyd, general manager of Bassett Office Supply. He said his experience with Crowder has been “fantastic.”

“One of the most important things is the ability to communicate with the customer,” he said, “to understand what they want, and then provide the proper service. We found those qualities when we interviewed her (Crowder) for the technician position. She’s been here for five weeks now, and she’s already an integral part of the team.”

Boyd said Crowder’s studies at PHCC are proving very valuable for her work at Bassett Office Supply.

“The network training at PHCC really helped, and I’ve been going by myself pretty much since I started here,” Crowder said in the release.

Boyd has Crowder installing new machines for one of the company’s largest customers, and she also has gone out by herself on several calls. Because she is working out so well for the company, he said he plans to offer her a full-time position.

“I would encourage anyone to develop some set of skills in an interest that’s specific, because if you come into a business, hit the ground running and provide value immediately, it makes it really easy to hire somebody,” Boyd said.

Barney Nester, director of IT operations of Bassett Furniture, is working with Michael Gravely, a former PHCC student and graduate of Old Dominion University’s Teletechnet Distance Education Program. Gravely is responsible for computer setup, maintenance, equipment evaluations and much more.

Gravely “has stepped up and been very valuable to the department,” Nester said. “He continuously asks for things to do, and we’re finding it hard to keep him busy. … It’s been real nice to know you can give an assignment to somebody and they can run with it. You don’t have to follow-up with him.”

Gravely said he is blessed to have this opportunity.

“I still haven’t narrowed in on the area I would like to work in specifically, but I like that right now, I’m getting a taste of all the different things this industry has to offer,” he said. “I feel like I learn something new every day.”

Also at Bassett Furniture this summer is Robin Norman, a PHCC student working with Retail Systems Director Rhonda Wilson. Norman is helping the company with a software conversion.

“Robin has a great attitude, good energy, and pretty much anything I give her, she welcomes it with a great attitude — even if it’s not the most favored work,” Wilson said.

Norman said she is happy to be back in the IT field after going back to PHCC to sharpen her skills.

“This opportunity has been great so far,” she said. “All the synapses are firing here in problem solving, so I’ve been loving it. I really have to give kudos to Marti Phillips. I took HTML and Java from her, and she’s such an asset to the college. She’s got great ideas for growth to bring more internships and expand the IT program.”

Looking to the future, Steve Branch, dean of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Division at PHCC, is working with Bassett Furniture to develop an Information Technology Internship Program.

Stephen Harmon, vice president of IT operations, said he hopes this partnership will pave the way for those with IT skills to remain in the community and find employment.

“Eventually, we hope we can get other companies in the area a part of this effort so it will become a much broader initiative,” he said in the release. “But we’ve started in a good place.”

The program could entail guest lecturers coming to talk to students about particular technologies, or IT professionals working with students on special projects, Harmon said.

“The college is still working on building out the CISCO lab, which is going to be a great asset for us,” he said. “We’ll be able to tap into students who are going through that lab getting trained, and it can also be an asset for our employees to get trained and certified.”

Branch added, “The internship program has provided an excellent opportunity for PHCC students to experience the real world in a successful industry. It has also provided PHCC an opportunity to showcase the quality of education our students receive. I’m confident the success of this program will be demonstrated and repeated in other local industries.”


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