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Front Page » January 26, 2010 » Opinion » WETC closing
Published 2,082 days ago

WETC closing

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By John H. McCurdy


In regard to the article in the Jan. 19 issue of the Sun Advocate discussing the closing of the Western Energy Training Center. I thought perhaps the citizens of this community would be interested in what really happened. I was one of the first instructors hired by WETC and have been there until its closing in December.

The initial staffing of administrators and instructors could hardly have been better. The original mission was the training of industry incumbent workers. Demographic studies around the country and in particular here in our community showed a very mature work force, with very little or no training of a replacement workforce. The programs developed by the leadership and instructors were that of experienced, knowledgeable individuals who worked and trained in industry. That, in conjunction with task force members from all segments of industry, identified issues and priorities to insure the relevance and quality of the programs.

The board of directors was likewise comprised of a majority of industry leaders. Unfortunately the board also was made up of College of Eastern Utah administrators, who immediately made sure everyone knew that they were an 'advisory' board, not a 'policy' board.

In a nut shell, the success that WETC did enjoy was in spite of, and not in any way because of, CEU.

By way of explanation, CEU and its staff are, by definition, academic. Even the two year Associate degree programs of the Applied technology department do not and can not address the specific training requirements of industry. From the Jan. 19 article they still believe they can and do.

Here is what I discovered when I was asked to represent WETC at the meeting the Rockies Alliance of Process Technology, a group of community colleges, government, and industry leaders from around the mountain west. All of the community colleges outside of Utah whole heartily embraced the concept of industry driven, non-traditional training. In fact, Western Wyoming Community College in Rocks Springs, Wyo. informed me when I visited their facility, that 70 percent of their full time equivalents (FTEs), were not done in the traditional semester academic environment. These are not certificate courses but rather accredited programs. Another allied group, the Rockies Energy Workforce Collaborative (REWC), representing energy industries from around the mountain westm, were also advocating the same agenda. In 2008 WETC hosted both groups here in Price.

WETC never obtained accreditation or even certification of a single course from CEU.

In all fairness, the problem is not confined to CEU, as no other community colleges in the state has an industry driven approach to training. This can be squarely laid upon the Utah Board of Regents and the state legislature, who have kept community colleges in Utah 25 years behind the times.

A single example will suffice. WETC purchased a power plant simulator to be used to train control room operators for the coal fired generation units in the area. We were visited by then Governor Jon Huntsman, who observed a training demonstration of Pacificorp employees. As he was leaving, he turned and said to me, 'John I will not forget what you and WETC are doing here."

We all know of the political fortunes of Gov. Huntsman since then. The simulator still sits at WETC, unused. Pray tell, can some one tell me how CEU and their staff, who have never worked at a power plant, plan to utilize this equipment and perform the necessary training?

Many people in this community know exactly who I am. Over the past 30 plus years I have trained most of the journeyman, instrumentation and control electricians and many of the relay and communication technicians that work for Utah Power & Light (Pacificorp).

I am very proud to have helped to produce a fully competent workforce, a workforce that is the best anywhere in the country. The company and this community should be just as proud of them. However, they are now the mature workforce I mentioned above and it is past time to be preparing the new workforce.

I came out of retirement to train at WETC because I believe that they were the only ones to properly conduct this kind of training. So be it. Now I ride my horse into the sunset.

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January 26, 2010
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