Found in 1976, DOE's Industrial Assessment Center program (IAC) helps small- to medium-sized American manufacturers save money and improve energy performance by providing no-cost audits of various manufacturing processes. Across 28 universities, engineering students work with experienced professors to conduct assessments of manufacturers’ facilities, energy bills, and systems and provide actionable recommendations with cost-saving estimates and payback periods. As a result of the hands-on technical experience, students gain through the program, the IACs have become hot recruiting beds for employers looking to fill energy jobs. One such student is Anthony Taylor.
As a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering Student at Tennessee Tech University, Anthony Taylor was an active participant in its IAC. Over a three-and-a-half year period, he participated in 38 assessments of small and medium-sized manufactures throughout Tennessee and the surrounding region and was lead student on 18 of them. His leadership won him the 2017 Industrial Assessment Center Outstanding Student Award.
“I initially thought the IAC was just going to be another student club on campus. I was pleasantly surprised find it to be a great hands on experience that got you out into the field applying theories taught in class,” Anthony notes. “My first assessment was in a metal casting facility in the middle of summer. It was incredibly hot and dirty, but I remember being excited to find way to save energy for the client and fascinated by the process flow of the plant. Not only did the program teach student energy practices and how to apply classroom knowledge, it really showed the beautiful and complex world of a variety of modern day manufacturing plant as well as the role of an engineer had there. That was something a classroom could not teach.”
Anthony’s specialty is with compressed air systems. In addition to on-site experience, through the IAC he was able to gain free access to valuable training offered by the Compressed Air Challenge and DOE’s AIRmaster+ training. Anthony was able to pass on lessons learned by leading several in-house trainings that Tennessee Tech provides for new students.
In his last two years at Tennessee Tech, Anthony became a “go-to” student in the program, serving as a mentor to new students by showing them how to take measurements, perform energy calculations, and write recommendations. He eventually started a student research group to help students understand all aspects of air compressors and industrial compressed air systems.
Better Plants and the Industrial Assessment Center program have worked together to try to help Better Plants industrial partners meet their workforce challenges by hiring IAC students for jobs and internships. As further testament to the benefits of the hands-on energy experience provided by the IAC program, Anthony was hired as a compressed air auditor by Better Plants Challenge partner and compressor manufacturer Ingersoll Rand upon his graduation. In fact, he was hired on the spot after an in-person interview and waved through the standard one-year training for the role; a first for the company. “I was welcomed with arms wide open since I had done so much work previously with compressed air systems,” he said. “My experience with the IAC really gave me a competitive edge.”
To date, IACs have provided more than 17,600 manufacturers with over 134,000 actionable energy performance improvement. The average IAC assessment leads to 5-7% implemented energy savings and productivity improvement. Through the IAC job forum, Better Plants partners and other industrial companies can find highly qualified IAC students and graduates for summer internships and full-time positions. In comparison with their peers, IAC alumni are hired almost as twice as fast into energy efficiency jobs, with skill mixes worth $6,210 more than their competitors.