Western Kansas is blanketed by a network of 10 community and technical colleges that are the backbone of workforce training and development efforts and ensure that the region's labor supply is stocked with skilled workers.
Seward County Community College merged five years ago with an area technical college to form SCCC/Area Technical School, and has added several industrial technology programs. One of those programs is corrosion technology, and students who earn an associate's degree in that field often earn starting salaries around $50,000.
“There are 90,000 miles of oil and gas pipelines in the seven counties that our college serves, and technicians are greatly needed to inspect and sometimes repair corroded pipes that were buried underground as early as the 1940s,” says Duane Dunn, SCCC/ATS president. “Not enough young people are being trained for that specific industry, and current older workers are approaching retirement. That's why we added the vital program.”
Interesting, High-Paying Jobs
Colleges throughout western Kansas are orienting certificate and degree programs to emerging fields. For example, one of the courses of study at North Central Kansas Technical College, which has campuses in Beloit and Hays, focuses on culinary arts, while Dodge City Community College is offering a curriculum in flight instruction. Barton Community College has a degree program in phlebotomy, an in-demand field in health care.
Dunn sees opportunities in fast-growing or in-demand job areas, such as the school's natural gas compression technology program and a process technician program.
“High-paying companies in these industries aren't necessarily looking for engineers, but for technicians with one- and two-year degrees,” he says. “Working in a biofuel plant or an oil field – these interesting kinds of careers are out there at companies such as Quinque Oil and Gas, Merit Energy, Oxy USA and many more.”
Seward County Community College also has several agricultural-based programs in its curriculum lineup.
“What is the economy in western Kansas? It is oil-and-gas and agriculture, so we are really focusing our academic efforts into those two areas,” Dunn says. “SCCC is teaching courses in greenhouse management and ag production, tying crops and livestock into more academic programs that will help sustain the agriculture industry in this region.”