MOULTRIE, Ga. — “I piddled around and fell in love with this,” Josh McDuffie said as he stood in the brightly lit electrical systems classroom of Southern Regional Technical College.
Fully stocked with coils of cables, walls of wiring projects in progress, and bins of assorted tools and fittings, the classroom looks like a cross between a construction site and aisle five of The Home Depot. While he is now perfectly at home in that environment, McDuffie’s path to the Electrical Construction and Maintenance program at Southern Regional Technical College was a winding one.
After serving as a Bradley mechanic in the US Army, he never really found his footing in the civilian world until he decided to go back to college. At first, he went back to what he already knew. He started working towards his Automotive Technology diploma under the late instructor, Lynn Tanner.
Like many students who studied under Tanner, McDuffie has warm memories of him.
“Mr. Tanner was always busy, always working hard, but he also always made time for students,” McDuffie said.
In the last semester of his automotive course, McDuffie took one electrical systems class just to round out his schedule. Suddenly, everything clicked into place.
“I hit the ground running with Industrial Electrical Maintenance, and just liked everything about it,” he said, explaining that he enjoyed the hands-on problem solving of electrical work. “I was good at electrical trouble shooting in the Army, I just had that aptitude. I can sit there and read a book all day long. I don’t really know it until I get in there, roll my sleeves up, and do it.”
McDuffie took every available electrical systems class so that he could earn both the construction and industrial specializations available at SRTC.
“I try to learn everything I can… I like to be a jack-of-all-trades,” he said.
Stephen Mathis, Electrical Systems Technology faculty, said he has been impressed by McDuffie’s work ethic.
“The old saying that ‘there is no substitute for hard work’ holds true with Josh,” Mathis said. “He has worked harder than any student I have had in the last five years. He put in hours of extra work preparing for the SkillsUSA state competition and continues to do the same for the upcoming national competition in Louisville. It has been a pleasure to work with Josh and watch him grow in this field.”
In March, McDuffie was named the 2018 SkillsUSA Georgia Post-Secondary State Champion in Electrical Construction Wiring. Additionally, Klein Tools named him the Outstanding Graduate of the year. McDuffie credits his training at SRTC for his success in the competition.
“This school has been good to me,” he said. “I appreciate the leadership that I received from Mr. Tanner in automotive, and now Mr. Mathis has taken me under his wing and has taught me so much. There were guys there who were four and five year apprentices. I’ve just barely been in class a year, but I was prepared.”
Later this month, McDuffie will travel to Louisville, Ky., to compete in SkillsUSA’s 54th annual National Leadership and Skills Conference. While he is optimistic about his chances at the national level, he also has his mind on even loftier long-term goals, thanks to his training.
“Maybe one day, later on down the road, I’ll have my own business,” he said. “Maybe, this trade will be something I can share with my two sons. That would be nice.”