HANCEVILLE, ALA. – Mavon Copeland first took a stab at an engineering degree.
Then he spent time in Wallace State’s nursing program.
Nothing clicked or made Copeland more comfortable, however, than when he ultimately decided to pursue a degree in Wallace State’s Industrial Electronics program.
Copeland has continued to soar within his field ever since. Copeland, who graduated from Wallace State in May 2013, is currently working as a maintenance technologist at the Yates Nissan battery plant in Smyrna, Tenn.
“Whether it was with engineering (at UAH) or with nursing, there was just one class or thing that seemed to hold me up and I struggled. I started looking for something else and had talked with Joe Hendrix (Wallace State’s Industrial Electronics instructor). I had always been interested in electronics and robotics stuff and decided to change my major again,” said Copeland, a 2006 Locust Fork High grad. “I’m glad I did. I kind of took off from there and enjoy everything about it to this day. I don’t regret any decision I made beforehand. Something about robotics just made sense. Those years at Wallace State were a great chapter of my life, and I get to apply all of the things I learned in robotics to my every day job now.”
Copeland put his initial foot in the door at the Nissan plant in October 2012, utilizing an internship opportunity while attending Wallace State. During his internship, Copeland attended classes on campus on Tuesdays and Thursdays and drove to Tennessee for the weekends, where he worked three 10-hour shifts at Nissan.
Copeland was one of the first Industrial Maintenance Co-op students at the battery plant, where he now works full-time. As an intern, Copeland shadowed maintenance technicians for the first few months, assisting with any problems in the plant or on the assembly line.
Copeland made such a strong impression as an intern that he was offered a full-time job before he graduated from Wallace State’s Industrial Electronics program, receiving the opportunity in December 2012, even with a semester still left in Hanceville.
“The internship program was a great experience. I learned so much, but I was well prepared because I was receiving great training at Wallace State. I felt I was on an extra level as an intern because (Wallace State’s) Joe Hendrix is a very caring teacher and wants his students to succeed. He tried to make everything the best it could be for us,” Copeland said.
Once May 2013 rolled around, Copeland embarked on a couple of new beginnings. First, he graduated Wallace State as one of the top students in the college’s technical division. Copeland then married his high school sweetheart, the former Naomi Berkey, who had previously graduated from the Wallace State Dental Hygiene program.
On May 28, 2013, Copeland began a full-time position as a maintenance technician at Nissan.
“Once I was offered the full-time job, I knew I had to reserve a couple of weeks for graduation, the wedding and our honeymoon,” Copeland said. “Once our honeymoon was over, it was up to Tennessee and to work for the both of us.”
Copeland started as a maintenance technician with Nissan and maintained that position until a new opportunity arose a couple of months ago.
Copeland didn’t have high expectations or get too amped up when he applied for a maintenance technologist position in early September, but he thought it was worth a gamble, especially because Nissan encourages its employees to move up the company ladder.
The Wallace State graduate was among nine people within the company who applied for the same job.
However, one job opening turned into four available positions, and Copeland was selected as one of the new maintenance technologists at the battery plant. He started as a maintenance technologist on Oct. 6.
Copeland’s promotion has been unique because he is the lone technologist to carry an associate’s degree in a position normally filled by engineers or those who have 10 or more years of experience in the field.
“I’m glad I’ve been given the opportunity to be a maintenance technologist. I honestly wasn’t expecting to get it because most people who have this job have been here for a while or they have an engineering degree,” Copeland said. “Being a maintenance technologist is Nissan’s way of saying you are an engineer, but they can’t give you that engineering title without the degree. This has been one of the things I’ve wanted to do since I first joined, and I’m very blessed I’ve been put in this spot. I know not everyone gets this opportunity without an engineering degree.”
Copeland is responsible for overseeing two areas within the battery plant.
“We have separate areas and I’m over the B and C areas. I do a lot of improvements and countermeasures for big problems. We have daily meetings over all areas and talk about issues that happened on previous shifts. If anything has happened, we try to come up with a countermeasure for it,” Copeland said. “We also get called to the line sometimes by the technicians. If they can’t fix it, we go assist them to get the line moving.”
Copeland added that 85 percent of the troubleshooting scenarios within the plant are solved with the usage of a laptop.
Copeland works 10-hour shifts on Wednesdays through Saturdays and stops by the plant for a handful of hours on Tuesdays. Copeland estimates he works around 56 hours a week.
Copeland credits the education and training he received at Wallace State as one reason he has been able to ascend up the ladder within his plant in such a short timeframe. He isn’t the only Wallace State product of the Industrial Electronics program to hook on with Nissan after graduation. Tim Hendrix and Jordin Rivers are among other Wallace State graduates who have ventured up to Tennessee.
“It’s like the Wallace State grads leave and come in with a sharper edge around them. I told Joe Hendrix that it’s being noticed, and I think a lot of the credit goes to him. Some colleges seem to let the students just come in the doors, do the work and they are just a number. With Joe Hendrix and the Wallace State program, I feel he pushes you to be the best you can be. If you don’t push people to their limits, they don’t really learn a lot,” Copeland said. “Joe lays out a good plan for everyone and gives you extra stuff for you to learn and test your abilities. Joe also worked in the field, so he knows what we should expect. He cares about his job, but more importantly his students. That’s why people who come out of the Wallace State program on a different level above the rest.”
Hendrix works diligently each year to forge professional relationships for his program with automakers like Nissan, the Hyundai plant located in Montgomery and with others. In addition, in December, Hendrix spent two-weeks in Berlin, Germany, where he trained for the Siemen Mechatronic Systems Certification Program.
Hendrix is proud of the relationships he has been able to forge with certain industries and thrilled for Copeland’s progress at Nissan.
“The Industrial Automation/Mechatronics career field is certainly one of the hottest career opportunities out there right now. When students the caliber of Mavon graduate this program and go to work, they are finding that the opportunities presented to them are outstanding,” Hendrix said. “The ability to enter the workforce with a two-year degree and advance as quickly as Mavon has is truly remarkable, but is certainly not restricted to him alone. Most of the graduates are keeping in touch with me and are very satisfied (to put it mildly) with their job opportunities and futures. It is a great time to enter the Mechatronics career field!”
Copeland wants to continue to progress within the company.
“It’s not all about the money, but the money is good up here. There are so many opportunities here and within industrial electronics. Nissan is big on its employees bettering themselves. They love to see people progress,” said Copeland, who plans to pursue an engineering degree down the road.
For more information about Wallace State, visit wallacestate.edu.
Mavon Copeland, left, is pictured with Wallace State President Dr. Vicki Karolewics during the college’s 2013 commencement.
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