(John Welch, an electrical engineer and the founder of Bowtie Engineering, is a Building Operaton Certification (BOC) instructor at Gwinnett Technical College, the only BOC training facility in Georgia. The following is an excerpt of an interview in the Winter/Spring 2016 issue of Building Operator Certification Newsletter.)
When and how did you hear about BOC?
I met Gail Edwards (Division Dean of Automotive & Trades at Gwinnett Technical College) at a Chamber of Commerce meeting in 2008. She was talking up the BOC program and thought that I might be a good fit with my background. I had never really taught in a classroom setting before, although I had done a lot of electrical safety training. So I started teaching a few classes here and there. Now I just enjoy the heck out of it – I’ve been to a bunch of different BOC locations throughout the country and have just met some great people. It’s regular folks getting practical training from industry professionals, not just some dry, book-oriented class.
Obviously your area of expertise is electrical engineering but what do you think is your specialty within this as it connects with the BOC training?
I do the electrical classes at both BOC levels. I like to do a lot of hands-on training, which can be tricky to do with electricity without getting people hurt and ruining the day, so I built this little electric panel and use it to do a skit on safety at the start of my classes to teach them AHA (activity hazard assessment). Some students tell me it’s a highlight of the class.
The stat is that six to ten electrical workers get burned per day so that within the EE field, electrical safety is very near and dear to my heart. I’ve built my business around it and process drive the work with electrical managers to create risk management programs for their staff. It’s not improving without strong leadership because the systems are getting more complex. Training is crucial and a lot of industries aren’t investing in their FM staff for this – they outsource instead of educate and what do you think that does to internal FM staff morale?
What do you see as the greatest challenge to facilities management in your particular field? To facilities management in general?
Within the industry, I think one of the biggest challenges is that there is stereotypically a lack of focus on the full life-cycle cost of running a building and not concentrating on preventative action. Our buildings are becoming obsolete. Continuously developing technologies requires more energy and we need to account for that. It’s a lot better to be out in front, steering rather than pushing. Many technologies don’t have a chance to go through proper development cycles and so tend to have shorter life cycles and equipment failures.
Is there anything that surprises you when you teach BOC classes?
One thing that surprises me is that because many of the students have been out of school so long, some have lost the basic math skills. Not a lot, mind you, but some. So I spend the time necessary at the beginning of each class to drill them on Ohm’s Law until I’m sure everyone gets it. It’s the basis of everything I do.