A University Degree With Hands-on Experience

July 6, 2010

Have you ever sat in class wondering if you were ever going to use all that information the teacher was talking about?  Tho Pham did.  That’s why he decided to enroll in a new type of university degree program that offered real-world, hands-on experience.

“I graduated with a science degree from McMaster University and went directly into an Engineering course but it just wasn’t what I was looking for,” recalls Tho.  “I was wondering if some of the experiments they were doing during lab time were actual real world applications or if they were applications to prove the theories proposed in class.”

That’s when he came across information about the McMaster-Mohawk Bachelor of Technology Program that would let him earn both a technology degree from McMaster University and a diploma from Mohawk College. 

McMaster and Mohawk partnered a few years back to offer a four-year version of the successful Bachelor of Technology Program it had offered to working technologists looking to earn a university degree.  The four-year program offers students the choice of three program areas:  process automation, automotive and vehicle technology, and biotechnology. 

Tho, who will be finishing the program in December, decided to enroll in the process automation program. 

“Originally, I wanted to do the biotechnology stream but found out process automation was new and decided to try that first,” said Tho.  “From there, I fell in love with the program.”

“With BTech, the equipment in the labs is up-to-date with some of them being donated by surrounding industries. This provides us a better understanding of the equipment when we graduate and allows us to be a step ahead of other graduates in similar disciplines.”

But what really caught Tho’s attention was the mandatory co-op component. 

“The mandatory co-op requirement was a big draw for me,” says Tho. “This forced me to apply for jobs and get myself into the working world. It also provided me with an opportunity to better prepare my resume, my cover letters and develop soft skills even more.”

In his first co-op term, Tho worked as a quality operations assistant manager for Sanofi Pasteur, a pharmaceutical company specializing in vaccines.  He managed and edited standard operating procedures, quality specifications, operating qualifications and other documents, and created programs for security, managerial and functional purposes using visual basics.  This summer he’s programming a database for the Bachelor of Technology Program to help track enrollment and budget information.

Ed McCaffery

BTech student Tho Pham examines vials similar to those he worked with at Sanofi Pasteur to ensure quality control of vaccines.

As one of the first students in the four-year Bachelor of Technology program, Tho decided to start a student club along with fellow student Jason Dreyer.  They wanted to open the communication doors between students in the program and give them a feeling of connection to the university and the college.

“One of the reasons I decided to start the club was because students in the technology program needed an identity to associate with,” says Tho. “Every department in the university seems to have their own club so it was only fitting that BTech had its own club.”

The goal of the club, called the McMaster Technology Association, is to be primarily an academic support network for those in any of the BTech programs rather than just another social network.

“We want the club to be geared more towards the academic aspect rather than the social aspect,” says Tho. “We want to provide academic support whether it is about course information, course textbooks or studying for tests, assignments and exams. We want to provide sessions where people from industry come in to talk to the students about job opportunities and the kind of demand out there for students like us.”

After he graduates this fall, Tho is planning to return to Sanofi Pasteur to work and feels that the Bachelor of Technology program has him well prepared.

“I definitely recommend this program to students who want to learn new and exciting technologies with hands on experience,” says Tho. “The theory component is there along with real world applications, which will attract companies to hire you.”

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