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Students of the Game

March 1, 2006
If you are looking for young talent with a solid background in electrical fundamentals, call the placement office of your local technical college.

In today's fast-paced business world, results are expected right away. This is especially true regarding the hiring of quality people who can quickly become profitable, productive employees. Everyone is looking for employees who produce immediate results with a minimum of training.

Electrical distributors always need qualified salespeople to profitably sell their full line of electrical products. The ideal salesperson will be technically trained and qualified to intelligently discuss the many electrical products a distributor sells in the marketplace. He or she can confidently interface with the electrical buyer, allowing the seller and buyer to be on the same page. It levels the selling field when the buyer is aware that the salesperson knows the product features as well as he or she does, and it creates a mutual respect when both parties are talking at the same level.

You can find ideal sales candidates at your local technical college if it has a solid electrical program. Students that graduate from these colleges can immediately improve the quality of your sales staff.

St. Louis, Mo., is fortunate to have just such a resource in Ranken Technical College, a privately funded institute of learning with 1,200 full-time day students and 760 part-time or evening students. The college, which now offers a four-year bachelor's degree, has a national reputation for producing well-trained graduates who enter the business world with a solid technical background in a variety of fields. A key statistic that measures the effectiveness of the education that Ranken provides speaks for itself: a 98 percent placement rate within six months of graduation.

Approximately 350 students are enrolled in the electrical program, Ranken's largest area of study. The college's electrical division has three areas of study: control systems technology, electrical automation technology and electrical systems design technology. The electrical division's training is heavily oriented toward practical “hands-on” work in Ranken's shops and test labs, with three hours spent in the shop for every one hour of classroom instruction on theory, says Steve Swenson, who heads Ranken's electrical division.

The advantages of hiring a graduate from a technical college such as Ranken are numerous. The graduate is highly trained in the function and application of the electrical products an electrical distributor sells. This is a huge selling advantage. The graduate is technically qualified and can quickly become comfortable selling a wide variety of electrical products. Ranken graduates are usually young people with a full career ahead of them. Graduates from the electrical program have been trained in the theory and hands-on application of all phases of electrical products, from house wiring to heavy industrial and commercial to state-of-the-art high-tech applications.

During their first year, students develop a solid knowledge of the fundamentals of electricity and electronics by taking courses in all three of the electrical division's areas of study. By learning about each of the programs, students can make a more informed decision about which career path they would like to pursue.

There are three course concentrations in the electrical division, which are detailed below.

Electrical control systems technology

Whether it's a few instruments or a complex integrated network loaded with intelligent controls, process control systems are often used to monitor and operate an entire manufacturing facility from the convenience of one computer. Graduates typically enter the field as electrical instrumentation technicians that maintain instrumentation and electric controls, motor controls, and programmable logic controllers (PLCs) that are part of computer-based systems found in manufacturing plants, food processing plants, utilities, refineries, breweries and chemical plants. After graduation, Ranken students have gone onto jobs as draftsmen, lab technicians, technical writers and salespeople in the control systems field.

Electrical automation technology

For major manufacturing and commercial industries, electrical power is the lifeline of the business. Companies operate on complex electronic systems and rely on highly skilled workers to maintain the manufacturing systems of their facilities. Ranken's electrical automation technology program produces skilled electricians trained to install, maintain, troubleshoot and repair electrical systems that consist of products such as industrial motor controls and motors, programmable logic controllers, variable-frequency motor drives and motion-control devices.

Electrical systems design technology

Students in this program study the design of electrical wiring, industrial controls, circuitry and machine and power distribution circuits. They must complete an electrical design and layout project, including a complete set of drawings, details and other necessary documentation. Program graduates can get jobs as junior electrical designers, electrical estimators, inspectors, manufacturers' sales reps and electrical engineering associates.

Many Ranken electrical graduates now work in the electrical field in the St. Louis metropolitan area for electrical distributors, electrical contractors, commercial or industrial companies and factory reps. These qualified peopled jump-start the training period and quickly become productive.

One recent Ranken graduate said, “I love working with my hands, but I also want the opportunity to work in sales. Ranken taught me how things work so I will be a more well-rounded employee. I will be able to sell products and advise customers about the products I sell.”

If your company needs salespeople qualified to quickly and profitably sell your complete product line, check out the technical colleges in your trading area. If no such school is available, you may want to check out Ranken Technical College in St. Louis.

Ranken Technical College: A Gem of an Idea

Ranken Technical College was founded in 1907 by David Ranken Jr. as a private, non-profit trade school with the mission of adding to the dignity of labor. Ranken was a wealthy single man from Scotland who inherited a large amount of money from an uncle in St. Louis. He invested the money wisely and grew his estate. Being a single person, he wanted to make a contribution toward society with his money. After consulting with the mayor of St. Louis, he decided to establish a quality trade school in St. Louis. Upon his death, Ranken's entire estate was contributed to Ranken Trade School.

Today, almost 100 years later, Ranken Technical College has become a nationally recognized, state-of-the-art, high-tech college with five areas of study: automotive, construction, electrical, information technology and manufacturing. Originally, the school awarded a certificate based on 18 months of training. An associate degree became available in 1982, and a four-year bachelor of science degree is being offered this year.

For more information on Ranken's electrical program, check out the college's Web site at or call Steve Swenson, electrical division head at (314) 371-0236.

The author is a proud graduate of Ranken Technical College (Class of 1948) and former president of Glasco Electric, St. Louis. Glasco is now part of Rexel.

About the Author

Bob Finley

A life-long salesperson who loves discussing the art and science of professional salesmanship, Bob Finley was president of St. Louis' Glasco Electric Co. for many years before he started writing for Electrical Wholesaling on sales basics. 

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