Set for success with a BSET degree
When Zachary Ernest was searching for a way to rise in the manufacturing world, he found it in Ohio State’s new Bachelor of Science in Engineering Technology (BSET) program.
The program launched in the fall of 2020 on Ohio State’s regional campuses with the goal of preparing students to excel as business-oriented engineering leaders in the evolving manufacturing industry.
When Ernest graduates from Ohio State Mansfield in May 2024, he’ll do so with a degree in Engineering Technology. But the hands-on education he’s receiving is already paying off.
Ernest recently spoke to Ohio State Impact about the BSET program.
Q: Why did you get involved in BSET?
A: I went to school for accounting when I was 18 and it really wasn’t for me. I dropped out and started working full time in 2012 for Covert Manufacturing. But working on the floor as a machinist, I realized this job isn’t going to be here in 20 years. I needed to figure something out.
So I went back to Ohio State, initially just for general education classes. Then, Ohio State Mansfield introduced the BSET program and my CEO (at Covert) thought it was a fantastic program so she decided to pay for my school.
At that point in my career, I knew I wanted to follow manufacturing because it was my passion. It was a leap of faith, but it’s definitely worked out for me.
Q: And this program is already helping you?
A: Absolutely. Two years ago, I was promoted into the quality department. About a year ago, we lost one of our engineers and the quality manager said, ‘I don’t want to outsource this job when we’ll have an engineer in a year,’ so they promoted me. That was obviously phenomenal.
A lot of what I did at Covert prepared me for that, but so has BSET. The way I learn and approach new things, I got that from school. Time and resource management, that education has been huge toward learning new things.
Q: What have been the highlights of your experience with BSET?
A: I give it high praise. Working in manufacturing daily, to come into the program and see how this education reflects positions in management is critical. Early in the program, you gain a macro view of engineering, robotics, management, Lean Six processes, PLCs (programmable logic controllers) — that background is invaluable and the big benefit is problem-solving.
Plus, the class sizes are super beneficial. There’s 12-14 people in our class so professors are always available. For me being a nontraditional student, I need that access; if I’m struggling, I need answers. And I get that hands-on help.
Q: Have you found any mentors?
A: Amber Rader, the program coordinator, has been amazing. She teaches my learning style and I love that. She’s been great with laying things out in terms I can relate to through hands-on activities. Plus, with her (employment) background, she’s done it all herself, she’s trained to do these things and explains it so well.
Q: That hands-on learning aspect is really important to you?
A: Definitely, I’m a hands-on learner. We spend a lot of time in the labs and they reflect what we learn in the lectures and books. When you can read about a subject and apply it in the lab, it’s a whole new way of learning. For example, I tried to learn circuits out of a book — couldn’t do it. I was so lost. But when you’re in there working, it makes sense.
Q: What is ahead for you?
A: Our senior year focuses a lot on operations management, which I’m really looking forward to. I want to get the economics and management side of things. Those two together can be powerful for me in helping a company succeed.
On top of that, with our capstone projects in the fall we’ll be getting our green belts in Lean Six Sigma certification, which is super beneficial. I’m also entertaining the idea of getting my PMI certificate, which is for project management. Those certifications give you the ability to take on a supervisor role and improve the processes of any facility I’m at.
Once I tackle this Bachelor’s degree, part of me wants to get my MBA in Business Management. The Fisher College of Business has an online MBA program I’ve been looking into and it’d be incredible to have that knowledge.
Q: It sounds like this program has not only educated you, but it's really opened your eyes to more things?
A: Absolutely and that’s one of the best things about this program. It prepares you for anything, it really helps you understand all the fields of manufacturing so you don’t need to be too heavily reliant on other people. You have knowledge about all the roles in a company, which helps me look at the overall process and build better ones.
Q: Would you encourage others to enroll in this program? If so, why?
A: From a manufacturing background, there’s no denying we’re headed to an automated manufacturing process across the board. We’re already there in a lot of fields. Robotics and automation have taken hold. That means the lower skill-level employees are going to fade away. If you want to get ahead of the curve, this program is for you because manufacturing companies will need people who have a macro idea of many different departments and skills and can problem-solve. That’s what this program does.
by Ross Bishoff, Ohio State Impact