College of the Mainland electrical student Billy Matthews sets a time clock he wired to go on and off at certain times.
College of the Mainland electrical student Billy Matthews sets a time clock he wired to go on and off at certain times.Pictured, from left, students Billy Matthews, Lance Pointer, David Flores, Ray Stockton with their Occupational Skills Awards and instructor Eddie Chambers.

COM’s first electrical and instrumentation students are ready for work – and some have already landed jobs in industry.

“It has helped me to start my career as an electrician,” said Billy Matthews, who began the COM Electrical Program in July 2016 and graduated in May with three other students. “I actually started the job for KBR as an electrician helper a week before my last day of school. By taking the electrical program, I was able to learn how to bend conduits, how to use an amp reader and current tester, and how to read blueprints.”

Markiese Garrett, of Texas City, had years of refinery experience, and was one of the first Instrumentation Program students in October 2016. He expanded his skills by learning about meters, gauges, differential pressure devices, calibrating and troubleshooting.

“It’s technical, more hands-on work. You have to think. You’ll never get bored,” said Garrett. “Not only did Mr. Buchanan teach us instrumentation, he taught us to be on time and be people of our word. He was very passionate about it. He kept me going.”

Both electrical and instrumentation students had their tuition paid for by the H1-B Ready to Work Grant. To be eligible for the H1B Ready to Work Grant, individuals must be over 18 years old, have a high school diploma or GED and have been unemployed or underemployed for at least six months.

After the program, graduates earned COM’s Continuing Education Occupational Skills Award as well as nationally recognized NCCER Level 2 credentials in electrical or instrumentation.

“Participants who complete the programs are trained for entry-level and helper positions,” said Anett King, H-1B Ready to Work Project Manager.

Electricians are in high demand, and the median hourly wage for electricians is $21.71 with helpers starting around $14.80, according to the Department of Labor. Students in the COM Electrical Helper Program will quickly develop the skills necessary for entry-level positions with commercial or residential electrical businesses. They will learn mechanical and troubleshooting skills and practice how to operate electrical tools, wiring and install conduits safely.

The median hourly wage for instrumentation technicians is $25.04 with entry-level helper positions starting at $15.77 per hour, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Participants who complete the program are ready for entry-level positions as instrumentation helpers, who work alongside instrumentation technicians. Students will learn about installing, troubleshooting and repairing industrial and commercial instrumentation equipment and practice hands-on skills.

For more information on the H1-B Grant, call Chris Hollman at 409-933-8643 or visit