WETC closes, but mining training will go on at center
The Western Energy Training Center (WETC) first opened in 2005 with $2.7 million in grant money from the Department of Labor. The College of Eastern Utah operated it with the grant money until 2008 when funding ran out. The state legislature then approved a one time appropriation of $600,000. WETC handles the training of mining related industries. The programs have been very successful as long as the money was there.
The state originally provided slightly over $1 million to purchase the Willow Creek Mine which is the location where WETC has been operating.
WETC has provided training for thousands of individuals and hundreds of thousands of training hours. Funding for the center ran out July 1, 2009. Trying to keep things afloat with smaller grants, CEU hoped to attract additional grants, but those have not materialized.
Once it was realized that it would cost more to operate than money coming in provided, the College of Eastern Utah had to discontinue services for WETC funded employees. Those employees were released from their contracts at the end of December.
However, CEU's mining department is also located at WETC facility. Mine Safety and Health Administration or MSHA training takes place there. Training will continue at the center through the CEU program in definitely. Associate Vice-President for Workforce Education Miles Nelson is supervisor for mining department. He said that mining programs are solidly funded and are not going away.
The programs in place focus on compliance training required by MSHA. The federal government provided grant to Utah and CEU is grantee. While the grant covers half of the operating expense, CEU is required to match the contribution. This is achieved by the fees collected for training and enrollment in classes. These federal monies cover expenses for new miners and refresher courses for existing miners to receive required training. Specific areas of education are safety, electrical, foreman and fire-boss training. All mine operations, which range from coal to sand and gravel mining, in the state are required to undergo MSHA training, with over 130 companies a year participating. Colorado, Arizona and some other states send companies for training to the CEU program as well.
The majority of these companies come for compliance but most come back for site specific training.
CEU continues to market additional services beyond compliance issues, and will be pulling in electrical specialties from the college in the near future. Working with Custom Fit, a program funded by the state, the mining department continues to train companies or individuals in specialties. The department provides training at lower cost and also helps to expand training areas.
Contract training is also a big part of their income. When a company wants specific training, CEU personnel go on-site to address the training on a need basis. The program is then tailored to fit the needs of the company.
Nelson's staff works with several institutions around the state including the Uintah Basin Applied Technical College with whom they have a strong working relationship. UBATC works with oil and gas companies in the Uintah Basin and collaborates with CEU on several issues. Whenever training needs occur, if either is not capable or qualified they often work together. They are also looking into possibilities of joint grant applications. Their partnership has become very valuable to each school. With federal and state grants becoming less viable options of funding it is important to gain contact and contracts in the private sector. UBATC has several working relationships which profit both parties.
With a merger between Utah State University and CEU in the works it is expected that both schools will bring much to the table as far as resources available for programs already in place. Both schools are very actively involved in the Uintah Basin in different areas. USU primarily focuses on gas and oil field research. Many companies already utilize USU's Energy Dynamics program which develops new training and solves problems in the respective industries. CEU Interim President Mike King is looking for ways to bring the Energy Dynamics program into the WETC facility in hopes of creating a better partnership in the future. This would serve both parties as they could rely on the other to compliment what advances are being made. USU would develop research very specific to industry needs. They do this by asking what problems need solving and then design programs fit what is needed. CEU's role would be to serve technology transfer, developing the training programs needed to fit what is derived from the USU research.