Trained for the toil: SLCC to offer oil, gas worker courses in fall

06 06, 2015 by Daily Advertiser

South Louisiana Community College may soon enhance the quality of the area’s oilfield workforce by offering a one-year diploma program in oil and gas production.

Pending approval by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, SLCC will begin offering courses in the fall and offer the program formally in the spring. The diploma program would extend over a calendar year and require 45 credit hours.

Willie Smith, vice chancellor of business and industry, said the college is preparing its proposal for SACS. If SLCC meets its own timeline, SACS would receive the proposal by the fall and approve it within a couple of months. However, Smith said SLCC could begin offering courses on a non-credit basis in the fall, then later grant credit to students who take the classes and enter the program.

Ryan LaGrange, LEDA’s manager of workforce development, said oil and gas is one of Acadiana’s “top industries” and a “driver” for economic development, but that oil companies have lamented the fact that there was no formal training program in place locally, save for those provided by the individual companies themselves. There are some 64,000 oil and gas employees in Louisiana, some 17,000 in Lafayette Parish.

Industry lent input to curriculum, program

LaGrange invited a representative group of oil company representatives to meet with SLCC in early 2014 to explore the interest in and feasibility of a workforce preparation program at SLCC. Company representatives quickly established that they were interested in a formal program at the community college. Meetings continued through the school year.

The content of the one-year program came from those meetings.

“This all came from the industry folks,” LaGrange said. “We wanted a dialog and that is what we received.”

One of those industry representatives, executive vice president at Quality Companies Jody Broussard, said SLCC and LEDA got “real world input” about several areas of oil and gas, including drilling and production.

“Ryan and his team visited facilities. That gave them a better understanding of what we do on a day-to-day basis,” Broussard said. “It better prepared them to develop a curriculum that works for everyone.”

Those representatives, many of whom work in human resources, said they wanted employees to have a general knowledge of the industry and exposure to subject areas like contracts, electrical work, safety, hydraulics and more. That preparation and awareness helps students discern whether oil and gas is the right career path, and eliminates turnovers later, Broussard said.

“The oil and gas industry is no different than other industries as it relates to technology,” said Jacke West, QHSE process improvement manager at Frank’s Casing, who also worked with SLCC and LEDA on developing the program. “Thinking about auto mechanics, those jobs today vs. 10 years ago have really changed from turning wrenches to requiring the knowledge and abilities to understanding complex computers, electrical systems and all the new technology packed into today’s vehicles.

“It’s the same in the oil and gas industry; it’s no longer a job that only requires a strong back and lots of hard work. The industry now looks to a workforce that needs a sound understanding of the new technologies that are changing year over year.”

Program to last for calendar year

Smith said the result of the talks with industry was to create a three-semester program that, pending SACS approval, would include 15 courses. In the first semester, students would study oil and gas regulations, occupational safety, an overview of the industry, drilling processes and industrial electricity.

In semester No. 2, students would study oil and gas instrumentation, pneumatics and hydraulics, offshore drilling, well completions and workovers and basic production. The third semester would include courses on production and safety, well control and blowout prevention and natural gas processing.

Program electives would include petroleum processing, oil and gas pump technology, pumps and compressors, drilling fluids and internships in oil and gas production.

West said the program appears to be on target for helping to meet industry workforce needs. Courses in oil and gas fundamentals, safety, hydraulics, hydraulics over electric and electrical aspects of the industry are most helpful, he said.

Smith said the program would be offered ideally in cohorts to groups of at least 20 students at a time. Students who complete the first semester would be regarded as prepared for work as “oil and gas production helper I,” completion of the second semester would prepare them for “oil and gas production helper II” designation. Completion of the entire program would result in awarding the diploma.

That diploma will prove valuable, Broussard and West said. Both said they’d recruit and hire from the program.

Smith said other oil and gas workforce programs were considered in creating the proposed curriculum. Programs exist at Fletcher Community Technical College in Houma and at Bossier Parish Community College.

The program would be offered at SLCC’s New Iberia campus, which is located near the heart of the oil and gas corridor on U.S. 90.

Oil & Gas Production Technology program

What: A technical diploma program

Where: At South Louisiana Community College’s New Iberia campus.

When: Program launches informally in the fall with non-credit classes, projected start date for formal program starts in spring. (College would grant credit to those who successfully complete non-credit courses.)

How long: The program would last for a calendar year, and involve 45 credit hours.

Source: Willie Smith, vice chancellor of business and industry, SLCC