Western Wyoming Community College Prepares Students for Workforce
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but real equipment is invaluable when it comes to training employees for work in the Sweetwater County extraction industry.
That's one way a manager at Halliburton assesses the value of Western Wyoming Community College (WWCC), a two-year school in Rock Springs that is a major workforce provider and trainer for oil, natural gas, coal, trona and other industries found throughout southwestern Wyoming.
In a partnership with the community college, Halliburton’s Rock Springs facility provides equipment that the school can use to train the company’s employees. It gives them true hands-on experience.
“Our employees can actually utilize the equipment they’ll see on a worksite,” plant manager Brian Carty says, “versus just seeing pictures and drawings of it. It has worked out very well.”
Halliburton, headquartered in Houston, is one of the world’s largest providers of products and services to the energy industry. Its Rock Springs plant has about 850 employees and performs product enhancement, cementing, completion tools and other functions.
“They actually provide our onboarding training and development for our new employees,” Carty says of WWCC. “It’s basically a safety-orientation course where they provide more of a hands-on approach in getting employees adjusted to industry standards.”
WWCC partnered with 17 oil and gas companies to build a well-site facility on campus that provides real-world training to the companies’ current and future employees. It has more recently added a 7,500-square-foot training facility that holds a five-ton crane to move various equipment and includes a 1,000-foot-deep hole for teaching specific down-hole training techniques.
Founded in 1959, WWCC had its main thrust as a feeder for the area’s major industries in the mid-1980s.
“That was when the college made the strongest commitment to accommodate industry training, by building a training facility,” says Karla Leach, the school’s president since 2008.
Among the many programs and courses offered are welding, industrial electrical, diesel mechanic compression technology, oil field training, OSHA safety topics and mine safety.
“We work with all advisor committees, and they come directly out of our industry partners,” Leach says. “We work with them to develop curriculum that’s specifically targeted to preparing them with a skilled work force.”
A Natural (Gas) Fit
More recently, WWCC has become a center of study for compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles.
“It’s actually an alternative fuels program, and it’s doing really well,” Leach says. “One of our industry partners said they would convert a vehicle for us if we’d start doing the training. One of their missing pieces is having their mechanics trained to service CNG vehicles.”
Many students who go through the two-year program at WWCC can find high-paying jobs at industries in the area. As a result, Leach says, enrollment has significantly increased in recent years.
“We continue to see our enrollments grow because these industries must have a trained workforce,” she says. “We’re only as good as our partners and the partnership that we build together, so it’s very important that we’re building a skilled community for the benefit of everybody.”
Learn more about education in Rock Springs, WY.