Energy success depends on quality employees

Education and training key to developing the right workforce

“It’s important that students have the skills and knowledge that an industry requires,” says Dana Nunn of Colorado Mesa University, “and the growth and development in our programs at CMU and WCCC will continue to reflect our commitment to the energy industry and enhance those relationships.”

While CMU has its foundation as a teaching institution, exploring ideas on undergraduate research appear to be on the horizon as the Energy Epicenter evolution continues in Mesa County. The Redifer Institute which focuses on the social and physical impacts of the energy industry is in the early stages of possible expansion of its programs to include environmental and natural sciences as well. “This research is in its very beginning stages, but it is headed in a positive direction,” adds Nunn.

Additionally, CMU offers a Landman/Energy Management Program which provides students with a degree they can take into the market to work with property owners on mineral rights, title research and other energy field opportunities with the BLM or other governmental agencies and in working on the use of public/private properties for other purposes. Degree holders obtain exciting, challenging positions working on myriad answers to difficult energy questions.

At WCCC, programs abound with opportunities for those interested in the energy field. The college offers welding and machining classes, and a certificate in sustainability that emphasizes curriculum in solar, wind, environmental science and the building trades.

CMU and WCCC have many partnerships, internships and employment opportunities available for students enrolled in these programs, allowing the hands on experience the students and companies find valuable. “Additionally, we have great cooperation and support from energy companies who provide scholarships, donations and equipment to our students and facilities,” says Nunn, “The companies also assist with our curriculum by sitting on advisory committees and telling us what they need in future employees.”

While our local university system is training the employees of the future, the Mesa County Workforce Center is taking steps to help the employees of today. And most important to the Center is that the energy employees of today come from our local workforce.

“Previously, when energy companies needed a particular, advanced skill set for a job, those workers were imported to fill the job,” says Suzie Miller, Employment Specialist, “And the Workforce Center has been working diligently with energy sector employers to have the employees available from our local workforce to fill those positions.”

In a cooperative effort between the Workforce Center and industry leaders, steps can be taken to both identify the skills the local workforce has available along with identifying what potential skills employers will be looking for in the future. After that, the MCWF can partner with other educational groups to develop curriculum and training programs to provide those advanced skill sets.

Additionally, the Workforce Center facilitates funding for “on the job” training. Having local control of funding combined with local knowledge allows for better, more creative to utilize funding, as the Center can recognize opportunities more readily. And Green Energy is one such field, where incumbent employees need additional training to stay up to date and remain competitive.

“ The fact is, every time we add a job in the field, that job has a ripple effect across our region,” adds Miller, “Jobs in the extraction industry have a way of adding several more into our marketplace. And the more we can fill with local talent, the better.”