Frank Askew, operations training coordinator for Pioneer Natural Resources, said he’d recently completed the tenth session of new employee training at Coastal Bend College. Pioneer partnered with CBC a year ago for training that they could not facilitate on their own.
“We are able to use resources at the college – the cafeteria, computer labs and classrooms – that have made the process [of training employees] seamless,” Askew said. Employees gain continuing education units, transcripts of their training, ID cards and access to CBC facilities, and certificates. They come to CBC for four days, where they spend 10-12 hours each day in the training center. The session includes a 30-hour OSHA certificate; an 8-hour HAZWOPER certificate for spill responders; classroom instruction on safety; preparation for forklift operator’s licensing; and a medical questionnaire required for those who will have to wear respirators for work. More than 300 Pioneer Natural Resources employees from across the state and Louisiana have gone through the training, according to Askew.
Michelle Thiebault of Texas Workforce Commission, who works with the college on funding customized training plans for area businesses, said each company comes with specifications like site requirements, special hours, unique machines and processes, yet workforce funds are available to cover training and trainers.
“Whatever your needs to train new or existing employees are,” said Thiebault, “the workforce commission will work with the college to get paid for you.” The state agency has funds set aside for training. Each employee is eligible to access about $1,400 and businesses can access as much as $500,000 for training through the college.
The recent growth in the oil and gas industry has predicated the increased need for training. “What we can broker with our partners is safety, leadership and training in the petroleum industry,” CBC President Dr. Thomas Baynum said.
It is the function of community colleges to encourage new and existing business development that will sustain economic growth. CBC’s central location in the Eagle Ford Shale zone makes it an attractive training site for area businesses.
Dr. Bruce Exstrom, CBC dean of instructional services, explained workforce degrees and certificates relevant to the visitors. Many of the oil and gas program courses are held in the evenings or online, and many current students are employees in the industry seeking advancement. Recent graduates have been hired by Dan A Hughes Co., R.W. Dirks Petroleum Engineer Inc., Welder Exploration and Production Inc., Valero Three Rivers Refinery and San Isidro Development Co. CBC offers an associate of applied science degree and a Level 1 certificate in oil and gas technology.
The National Spill Control School at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi partnered with CBC to offer classroom and on-the-water training on spill prevention, planning and response. “Working with CBC addresses a need for us,” said National Spill School Director Tony Wood. “Because of our ability to use the college’s facilities, the cost is significantly lower.” NSCS uses classroom space for their 40-hour HAZWOPER for oil spill response course; CBC manages enrollment.
The partnership has made it possible for them to offer classes in the northern counties of the Coastal Bend and to localize workshops in Alice, Beeville, Kingsville and Pleasanton to minimize the travel time for employees and trainers. The next scheduled classes will take place Sept. 19-23, in Beeville and Oct. 10-14, in Pleasanton.
Gary Doty of Total Safety told the group, “We can knock out a whole day’s work in 10 minutes because we train 20 employees in CBC’s computer labs, instead of on the two computers we have on site.” His company has tripled its workforce in less than six months and currently has 25,000 employees stretching from Carrizo Springs to Cuero. CBC provided the company the facilities to accommodate their required safety and hands-on training.
“I was very impressed with the information received today and did not realize CBC offered so much for local businesses, especially the oil and gas industry,” said Robbin Stasny, field office manager for Welder Exploration & Production in Beeville.