Jah Xavier Delgado sits in front of his laptop computer in the media center at Atlantic County Institute of Technology staring intently into his screen.
But he’s not checking his social media accounts, or watching videos on YouTube. He’s looking at computer drawings of South Jersey Gas lines buried underground in Atlantic County.
It’s part of his internship this past spring with the utility, arranged by ACIT to provide students like him with real-world experience before graduation from the county’s vocational-technical high school.
South Jersey Gas, a subsidiary of South Jersey Industries, created the internship for ACIT students in 2020 in its Geographical Information System and Records Department.
“Our goal is to help students apply their formal education with real-life applications in an environment where they could potentially work one day,” said SJI Talent Acquisition Leader Mike Baron.
For many years, South Jersey Gas has worked with ACIT to make presentations to students during Careers in Utilities Week, but the utility wanted to bolster its relationship with the vocational school, in part because it needs highly skilled employees for its future workforce.
“We need to prepare to have the next-generation workforce trained up and ready to help us to continue to deliver safe, reliable and affordable clean energy into the future,” said Dave Robbins, president of SJI Utilities.ACIT recognized Robbins as its 2020 Business Partner of the Year.
Although the newly created internship program was limited by the COVID-19 pandemic during the 2020 school year, Delgado and another student, Da’Shon Tucker, were able to participate remotely during the spring.
Delgado, who is from Atlantic City, chose to attend ACIT over his hometown high school because he has always been interested in engineering and technology. When he started high school, he enrolled in the school’s Computer-Aided Drafting and Design program and fell in love with it.
“The fact that I’m able to take anything from my mind, put it into a computer and it can be built, is just really cool,” Delgado said.
During their freshman year, students learn the fundamentals of technical and mechanical drawing and basic drawing commands in AutoCAD. In their sophomore year, students learn site design, site planning, zoning regulations and zoning ordinances and how to prepare site details used in basic engineering drawings. In their junior year, students create commercial drawings and are introduced to building codes.
By their senior year, students are prepared to earn their certification in Autodesk Revit, a computer design tool that is used by architects, engineers and contractors, said Drew Holmes, who teaches in the ACIT program.
Delgado, who has since graduated and is planning to attend Atlantic Cape Community College in the fall, said he immediately took to the work because he was so well prepared by his school.
“It made it a lot easier because I was already familiar with the program,” he said. “It makes a lot easier for me to do my job because I already know how the computer program works and how to get it to work properly.”
Delgado said he values the experience because it gave him exposure to what it’s like to work in the real world.
“I’ve learned time management and communication skills,” he said, “as well as how to write formal emails, using commas and proper spelling and grammar.”
Holmes said he has seen a difference in Delgado since he started his internship with South Jersey Gas.
“He’s ready to go to work now,” Holmes said. “He’s matured and it’s because of this opportunity he had with South Jersey Gas.”
Reach Atlantic County Institute of Technology at: acitech.org or call 609-625-2249.
Reach South Jersey Industries at: sjindustries.com or call 609-561-9000.