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During the first week of their senior year, Justice Russell and Alexjandro Vazquez took some time out of their busy high school and college schedules to share their experiences as being part of the “CAT 5”. Along with LaShonda Beasley, Brian Scott, and Donte Lett, they were part of an inaugural summer internship program at Caterpillar’s Athens facility. Beasley and Lett graduated last May while Scott, Russell, and Vazquez are finishing their final year at ACCA and Cedar Shoals High School.
Russell and Vazquez excitedly shared how they were welcomed to the Caterpillar workplace. Vazquez explained that it was his first job, so he wasn’t sure what to expect. However, Caterpillar paired each of the interns with a mentor to help them learn about the company culture and to gain the skills they each needed for their place in the production facility. The week also started with staff meetings to prepare them for Caterpillar's expectations.
For Vazquez the mechanical engineering courses he took through ACCA and Athens Technical College gave him insight for much of the training he needed to work at Caterpillar. Training at QuickStart further prepared him for his role at Caterpillar. Each of the interns completed specialized QuickStart training to ready them for their positions in the production facility.
Vazquez worked in a sub-unit assembling “boom and stick” components. On a classroom training unit, he showed how he put together and tested hydraulic couplings and hoses that would be sent to the main manufacturing line. "We had a certain number to produce each day," he said. "If we didn’t keep our unit going, it could hold up the entire production line. It was an important job." Russell had a spot on the main line working hands-on with the machines being assembled in the facility.
"Each morning I was responsible for setting up my station to ensure I had all the parts I needed for the day," she explained. "One of the things CAT instilled in us was that the next station on the line was your customer. You needed to send the equipment to them looking just like you would send it to a sales showroom."
Safety on the production floor was also a key element in the internship.
"Caterpillar made sure we, like all of their employees, were safe on the production line," emphasized Russell. "We went through a lot of safety training and every day I knew I was going to work in a safe, comfortable environment."
Aside from the tangible skills gained on the manufacturing line, Russell and Vazquez agreed there were three core items they took away from their internship experience.
Be on time.
Pay attention to your work.
Adhere to product standards.
In addition to the internship experience, Vazquez shared how Athens Community Career Academy and Athens Technical College have given him a head start on his career and college education. When he graduates from Cedar Shoals High School, he will already have college credits on his transcript.
What does Russell see in her future? She can't wait to go back to work at Caterpillar. After high school graduation, she will only need three courses to finish the Mechatronics program at Athens Technical College – so she plans to do that, too. She would eventually like to earn a degree in mechanical engineering and go on to designing equipment components.
The "CAT 5" remain close to their contacts at the Athens Caterpillar production facility. The current ACCA students will have the opportunity to return to Caterpillar during the school year for additional experiences within their pathways.
Joyce Waters, MA, RHIA, CCS
Waters started her teaching career in 2004 and became the Health Information Management Technology program chair at Athens Technical College in September 2010.
In August 2014, the Georgia Health Information Management Association presented Waters with the Distinguished Service Award.
Five Questions With Joyce Waters, Health Information Management Technology Program Chair
How do you measure success as an instructor?
I measure success by traditional methods, including testing and exams. I also measure success by students passing the national exams and getting their first job in the field.
Every time I teach, I see "light bulbs" go off for my students. I know my students well enough to be able to tell when they actually understand concepts, principles, and guidelines in this field. Their eyes light up and they have these "light bulb" moments where they give me examples.Why did you decide to devote your Health Information Management Technology career to teaching?
I actually happened upon teaching by accident. Since that first day, I have really enjoyed teaching. I like this quote from Oprah Winfrey, "If you do what you enjoy then you will never work another day in your life." That’s the way I feel about teaching.What is the "wow" moment when you know students really understand the impact they can have with their Health Information Management Technology education?
One of the wow factor moments came when some of the students went to the annual American Health Information Management Association convention. They saw how many opportunities were available for people in Health Information Management Technology. It’s one thing to lecture about opportunities; it is quite another to actually see it. These students are so motivated now – and eager to start their careers.What is something unique about you?
I believe in the "student." I not only teach, but I coach and train life skills, as well as professional skills. I love what I do because their success is my reward.How has Health Information Technology changed in the past few years?
The Health Information Management Technology field has moved from paper processes to electronic processes. The health information management departments are much smaller and a lot of elements have been contracted out. This means that students must understand workflow processes and be able to evaluate vendors used in Health Information Management Technology departments by utilizing measures for quality and quantity. Although processes may be contracted out, we are still responsible for the ultimate product or service which is managing patient information.