The Times West Virginian

May 31, 2013

Appalachian Petroleum Technology Training Center brings exciting opportunities to region

Times West Virginian

— The supply of energy sources in the United States is definitely on the upswing.

New technology, combined with the high price of oil, has brought previously unproductive sources of energy to the market.

There has even been talk of the United States moving toward energy independence in the not-too-distant future.

Of course, there are environmental issues that must be debated and solved, but the fact is that hydrocarbons are going to be a major part of the country’s energy puzzle for the foreseeable future as work continues on alternative, renewable forms of energy.

It’s no secret that affordable energy resources in sufficient supply drive the nation’s economy.

West Virginia, with its abundant natural resources, is in position to be a major player.

That’s why we appreciate this week’s announcement of the launch of the Appalachian Petroleum Technology Training Center. James Skidmore, chancellor of the West Virginia Council for Community and Technical College Education, presided over the announcement on Wednesday at the Robert H. Mollohan Center in Fairmont.

We’ve stressed over the years that without quality education, it’s impossible to see real economic development in West Virginia.

It’s all about people and training.

If West Virginians are going to fully benefit as progress in the energy industry is made, its people must be qualified to perform the work. As The State Journal pointed out, drilling in the Marcellus Shale started in recent years, and many of the jobs are going to out-of-state workers who already have training and experience in the industry.

“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,” Skidmore said. “At the same time, it will provide a skilled workforce for those companies operating in West Virginia.”

The program will be offered through Pierpont Community & Technical College in Fairmont as well as West Virginia Northern Community College beginning in the fall of 2013, and the first set of students will graduate in May 2014.

“This program is one I believe will continue and sustain the economic growth for this region and our entire state,” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said.

Both Pierpont and WVNCC will offer associate and certificate programs and will be equipped with indoor drilling simulators. An outdoor simulated drilling lab will be located in Fairmont for shared use between the colleges.

Dr. Doreen Larson, president of Pierpont, said she is proud of the opportunity the institution will be providing its students.

“Pierpont Community & Technical College certainly is excited to be a provider of this new program,” Larson said. “The curriculum for this petroleum technology program is founded upon industry needs, the unique needs of the Appalachian region and to boost our economy now and in the future.”

Funding has already come into the program.

“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 employers and the industry."

Ron Walsmith, Petroleum Technology Program director, said the program’s curriculum, which emphasizes safety, is second to none.

“It’s such a dynamic curriculum,” Walsmith said. “It has the potential to be the best two-year training program in oil and gas in the United States.” 

The next step, of course, is to get students involved. Those interested in the Petroleum Technology Program may call Pierpont at 304-367-4920 or WVNCC at 304-214-8975.

We’re looking forward to more career opportunities for West Virginians and to an improving energy situation for the United States.