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Western Energy Training Center future fuzzy

Mike King

By COLLIN MCRANN
Sun Advocate reporter

It's no secret that the College of Eastern Utah (CEU) has been struggling financially, but with millions of dollars in budget cuts, belts have tightened considerably. One area of the college hardest hit is the Western Energy Training Center (WETC).

In the past WETC as an institution has cost about a million dollars per year to run, but with funding sources drying up, CEU is looking for ways to trim the budget, and as a result the training center has lost many of its offerings.

However, according to Dennis Dooley, the manager of WETC, "weactually have a greater list of offerings this year than we did last year. We have added many new OSHA mandated classes," he wrote. Although the facility will be open for upcoming classes, the more distant future is still unclear.

"The industry (energy) has fewer training dollars and we've talked with a couple of groups so that we can continue offering some of our programs out there, but we're still in early discussions and nothing's been put in writing," said CEU interim president Mike King.

Originally the WETC was started with a federal grant from the Department of Labor for $2.7 million which was intended to keep the institution going until it could become self sustaining. However when the money ran out the state legislature stepped in and gave WETC a one time $600,000 to continue. However, due to financial constraints the legislature declined to give any money during its last session.

"We did not receive any additional funding from the state to help support the center, so what we've been relying on is money from the courses as well as existing grants," said King

Most courses at WETC focus on energy related training such as safety or technical specifications, but according to King it largely depends on what is demanded by the industry.

Another factor that could shape the future of WETC is the Utah State University merger. CEU may be in in the middle of a $14 million budget cut, but USU is also experiencing its own budget difficulties.

At the moment the center is applying for various grants and partnerships with industry groups, but at the moment nothing is set in stone. However new programs are expected to come from the USU merger, but it is still unclear about how WETC will be involved because its technical orientation differs from that of USU.

WETC might only be four years old, but its service to Carbon County's energy industry has been substantial. With looming budget cuts and an uncertain future the center could be further scaled back.

"We hoped it would be self sustaining by the time the grant expired, and it's really just a function of the economy because there's just no money. We're struggling, but we've also had a lot of people working really hard," concluded King.




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