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New Petroleum Technology Center will offer hands-on experience

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It is said that students learn best by example.

 

That's part of the reason the Community and Technical College System of West Virginia is opening a new technology center that will allow students to gain hands-on experience in the oil and natural gas industry at the new Appalachian Petroleum Technology Training Center at the Robert H. Mollohan Research Center in Fairmont.

 

James Skidmore, chancellor of the CTC System, said developing the program was a yearlong process that involved talks with industry officials and establishing a steering committee.

 

"As a result, we are going to establish an outdoor simulated well site that will be located in Fairmont," Skidmore said. "Both Pierpont (Community and Technical College) and West Virginia Northern (Community and Technical College) will offer the program and also do some indoor labs, simulations. But students from both colleges will go to the outdoor simulation lab at Fairmont to get the hands-on experience of working on an oil and gas rig."

 

The opening of the petroleum technology center is just another step in Skidmore's long-term mission to train West Virginians for jobs in the oil and natural gas industry. Drilling in the Marcellus Shale play really started only a few years ago, but as more companies get involved, more jobs are available. However, many of those jobs are going to out-of-state workers who already have training and experience in the industry. Skidmore wants to see those companies employ West Virginians.

 

"The purpose of the program is we want to provide opportunities for West Virginians to be prepared and have the technical skills to get the high wage jobs in the oil and gas industry," he said. "At the same time, it will provide a skilled workforce for those companies operating in West Virginia."

 

Pierpont and Northern both will offer associate and certificate programs in petroleum technology, as well as a variety of customized training programs for the oil and gas industry. While the outdoor simulated well laboratory will be located in Fairmont, both campuses will house an indoor simulation lab.

 

Presidents of both colleges said they are glad to be able to offer the program in conjunction with the industry.

 

"The Appalachian Petroleum Technology Training Center is the result of dialogue and partnership with the power industries of our region," said Doreen Larson, president of Pierpont CTC. "However, the power of the program lies in engaging and developing the intelligence and work ethic of the people of West Virginia. Pierpont is proud to be able to offer this training that provides an avenue to keep talented workers and their families living in West Virginia."

 

But equipping West Virginia students with the knowledge and experience necessary to work in the oil and natural gas industry isn't easy, or cheap.

 

"Currently we have been fortunate enough that we received a $250,000 grant from the Benedum Foundation," Skidmore said. "That will help with the cost of establishing and delivering the program. We also have received donations from employers, oil and gas industry companies, and we hope to get equipment donated for the simulation lab from companies. Of course there will be cost of instructors and maintaining faculty. Those will be paid through the college. We would anticipate investing in the neighborhood of a half million dollars of state funding to establish the program. That depends on the donations and equipment donations we get from employer and the industry."

 

Skidmore said the CTC System has spent about a year planning and developing the program with the help of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association and the West Virginia Independent Oil and Gas Association. The program will be offered this fall at both Pierpont and Northern.