Solar Company Provides Accelerate Student With Opportunity to Shine

Española resident Gregg Padilla left school to work construction in the ninth grade. Many years later he earned his GED, enrolled in Northern New Mexico College (NNMC), and recently earned his Associate’s degree in Pre-Engineering with a perfect GPA.

And, thanks to a program called Accelerate, along the way he acquired valuable professional readiness skills, chalked up some real-world experience, and was able to verify that he had chosen the correct field of study.

Accelerate focuses on transitional workers with retraining needs and non-traditional students enrolled in technical certificate and 2-year degree programs. The program offers an innovative approach to increase technical degree completion, professional readiness, and job placement, including the assistance of a Career Technical Advisor (CTA) who proactively coaches students to make sure they are progressing towards earning their degree.

Gregg is especially interested in working in the field of renewable energy because he is keenly aware that the nation and the world need to find alternative energy sources.  In January of 2013, Gregg participated in an Accelerate-paid Fellowship in Tucumcari, New Mexico with a solar engineering and design company.  Christy Dammen, his Accelerate CTA, helped him search and call different solar engineering companies to find one interested in working with him. Gregg found a perfect match with Robert Hockaday, President of Energy Related Devices in Tucumcari.

Gregg had always worked in the field and this was the first time he experienced working in an office environment.  During his Fellowship, Gregg studied the designs of solar panels and ways to make them more efficient.  He also used AutoCAD, a computer-aided design software tool he learned in school, to make site drawings for customers to help determine the best placement for their solar panels.

Gregg says the Fellowship showed him what mechanical engineers do in a real-world setting.  It also gave him a good overview of what it’s really like to be an entrepreneur and own your own company.  “Mr. Hockaday is an entrepreneur, a mechanical engineer, and an inventor. He works hard and it can be tough at times,” he says. “One of the most interesting parts of the Fellowship was when he taught me about patents and the process involved in applying for one.  Applying for a U.S. patent is one thing, but I found out it’s important to apply for international patents, too.”

Mr. Hockaday says “Gregg got the drawings and bill of materials together and was enthusiastic on the site visits. He also taught me some details about using AutoCAD.”

Gregg, who is continuing on at NNMC to earn his Bachelor of Engineering in Mechanical Engineering in the fall of 2014, is currently working with his professors on a clean energy project. The project focuses on optimizing the efficiency of grid-tied Photo-Voltaic (PV) panels and battery storage units in order to offset the power produced by conventional power plants. In addition, Gregg also serves on the Board of Regents at Northern New Mexico College where he and his co-student representative, Lisa Salazar, act as facilitators for students who wish to address college policies. He is also President of the Northern Engineering Student Association.

Before college Gregg knew little about networking or writing a resume. According to Gregg, “Accelerate has given me the tools necessary to market myself professionally in my current and future employment endeavors.”

With degree-related experience and new confidence in his networking and job-readiness skills, there is no doubt that Gregg will be in hot demand when he starts his new career!

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UNM-LA Accelerate student Candida Frequez interviewed Gregg Padilla for this story in March of 2013 as part of her 100-hour marketing Fellowship with the Regional Development Corporation and paid for by Accelerate. Candida joined Accelerate in the fall of 2011 and is on target to earn her AAS in Digital Media Arts later this year. The story was written by Candida in collaboration with the Accelerate Program Manager.

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