WTEC works with area colleges to collaborate on regional education, workforce initiatives

On Friday, March 7, the West Texas Energy Consortium (WTxEC or Consortium) hosted a regional meeting for all community and technical colleges in the Consortium's region. The eight colleges in attendance included: Cisco College, Ranger College, Texas State Technical College West Texas, Howard College both San Angelo and Big Spring campuses, Western Texas College, Odessa College and Midland College.A number of initiatives were proposed including a Regional Transfer Agreement that will align classes and programs across the region to simplify transference among regional partners.  The concept of curriculum alignment was discussed in depth by regional partners who heard from Linda Head, Associate Vice Chancellor of Workforce Education at Lone Star College System in Southeast Texas, on the increasing demand to approach employer needs from a regional, state and even national perspective. “We have to work together to create regional and state collaborations among the leading community colleges in Texas, and build state-wide programs of study to develop core skills required by our employers in order for our students to be viable job candidates,” explained Linda Head. Encouraging participants in the Consortium to address industry’s perspective she said, “A machine operator in West Texas is required by the employer to have the same core skills as a machine operator in Houston. Therefore, why would we have different certificate and degree programs? Although the drilling site might be in West Texas, the U.S. recruiters could be in Houston. The employer sees us as one educational partner rather than multiple, individual entities. Let's do this for our students and for our employers. It is imperative for the state's economy that we work on this as one voice.”The colleges also discussed the creation of Regional Centers of Excellence in Energy Education. Dr. Ian Roark, WTxEC Chair of the Education and Workforce Development Committee and Dean of Career, Technical and Workforce Education at Odessa College described the concept, “Each Regional Center will have a specific disciplinary focus and will serve as the focal-point for curriculum development, educator training, regional coordination, and collaborative agreements facilitating the alignment of curricula and programs for greater regional cohesion for students and employers.” The need for this can’t be understated. As the energy industry continues to grow, education and workforce must be positioned to respond. “Through these Regional Centers of Excellence and the subsequent regional coordination, the Area 2 colleges will be able to more readily and quickly adapt to the ever-changing needs of our employers,” said Dr. Roark. The first Regional Center of Excellence is being piloted at Odessa College in the area of Instrumentation, Process Control, and Automation Technology.  Texas State Technical College (Sweetwater) is also developing a Regional Center in the field of Safety Technology.WTxEC has proposed the formation of Regional Advisory Councils. The Councils will be formed to further align curricula and educational programming with industry needs and expectations, thus playing a key part in mobilizing education and workforce to meet the needs of employers, as well as ensuring the success of Regional Centers of Excellence. These Regional Advisory Councils will be discipline specific and will serve to inform the regional curriculum alignment process that will occur through the Regional Centers of Excellence.Further workforce ideas and needs will be presented when Chairman Andres Alcantar of the Texas Workforce Commission addresses those attending the West Texas Energy Consortium's Annual Conference hosted in Abilene on June 3 and 4. Visit the consortium's website, www.westtexasenergyconsortium.com, to see who will be speaking and get information on how to register to attend.