Wyoming Community Colleges Fill Skill-Training Role

Wyoming’s community colleges and vocational training centers play a key role in providing the state with a skilled and work-ready labor pool.

By
Gary Wollenhaupt
On Sunday, September 11, 2011 - 18:56

Wyoming’s community colleges and vocational training centers play a key role in providing the state with a skilled and work-ready labor pool to contribute to Wyoming's economic development.

Dr. Jim Rose, executive director of the Wyoming Community College Commission, says the colleges are tuned to the needs of their communities and have four distinct missions:

1. Provide academic degree programs that prepare students for entry into careers or transfer to baccalaureate programs
2. Workforce and occupational preparation
3. Remedial education for adults
4. Community-enrichment programs

“Everything from square dancing to crafts,” Rose says.

Education and Training Options in Wyoming

The state has seven community colleges, but the system ties into other two-year institutions as well as the University of Wyoming, creating a seamless network that offers everything from workforce-development programs to two-year degrees transferable to four-year institutions, educating those who can in turn play a part in Wyoming's economic development.

The state also benefits from specialized institutions such as WyoTech, which offers diploma programs in the automotive, diesel, motorcycle, HVAC, watercraft and collision/refinishing industries, and the Wyoming Contractors Association’s McMurry Training Center, which offers training for the construction and energy industries, working with employers from around the state.

“We split our training between the energy industry and our contractors, but right now a lot is focused on the energy industry and the drilling rigs,” says Bruce Brown, general manager at the McMurry center. “We’re doing commercial driving and heavy equipment operator training, welding and apprenticeship programs for our contractor members.”

Off-season safety training is another big focus for the McMurry center, which can devise a program to meet a specialized need in a short window of time.

The state’s community-college system numbers some 24,000 students, more than half of whom are part time.

“The unique role of the community college is that we provide a bridge to either a career path or just an enrichment opportunity,” Rose says. “We’re also the point of introduction to higher education for people who have, for a whole variety of reasons, not been able to pull up and move to a town with a four-year university.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gary Wollenhaupt is a freelance writer covering economic development, travel, technology and green home building.