11:41 p.m. Feb. 20, 2013

Board approves pilot welding program despite opposition


LCCC Board of Trustee's Vice Chair Dr. Kevin Kilty argues against a pilot welding program

Kasey Orr, Co-editor

After extended debate at the Feb. 20 Laramie County Community College Board of Trustees’ meeting, a pilot welding program will be instituted at the college.

The subject had produced in-depth and sometimes polarized discussion in the last few board meetings, having been in development since October.

The proposal came to the board with the business plan sought at a previous meeting and an opening statement from LCCC President Dr. Joe Schaffer, who introduced the proposal with answers to the previous points of contention. Trustee Dr. Kevin Kilty waited patiently for the president to finish speaking, but he showed no hesitation in being the first to respond.

He began by re-iterating a previous point wherein he believed the budgeted amount of $20,000 for equipment and materials was a low estimate, after having spoken with people about it again since the previous meeting. Then he moved on to a number of different questions involving parts of the business plan.

Kilty continued on his list of questions and concerns about the program with Schaffer doing his best to answer and defend. Kilty had serious concerns with the accuracy of the expected market need for people with welding skills in the next few years, which were projected in the proposal, and one of the key reasons given for the pilot program’s need in the first place.

Job availabilities questioned for new program

He questioned whether these jobs would actually be available for the students graduating from the program and was disconcerted by the lack of open support shown from businesses in the proposal. His concern brought him again to cite other programs in the state, claiming the graduates of which had historically low probability of staying in the state and actually contributing to its economy.

Kilty’s major worry in this area was job migration from other states. “People already trained in an art move to your state when there are opportunities,” Kilty said. He predicted it was likely any market need for people who would graduate this program would be filled by workers moving here from other states before any graduates would be produced.

Schaffer, offering defense of the projected figures, cited these were some of the reasons the administration was asking only for a pilot program, which would need to be approved by the board after two years in order to remain in perpetuity, or else be terminated.

Kilty replied, “But at the end of the two years…we will have a sum cost of $560,000 in this thing.” Kilty pointed out how the $560,000 that would be lost in this instance were funds that could have been used for other projects or programs with a better chance of benefiting the community or Laramie County.

A few more questions arose about student costs and budget issues, but in the end Trustee Don Erikson, former mayor of Cheyenne, pointed out that he first came to meetings back in October of last year before he was voted onto the board and recalled faculty had come “to the board and indicated that they had information coming from the community…that said, ‘Hey, we have a growing need…an anticipated growing need.” He reminded the trustees they had received similar information from other sources, and which was the whole reason the pilot program came before the board in the first place.

After more than 40 minutes of what the board chairwoman, Carol Merrell, described as “spirited discussion,” the question was called, and the motion was passed with only trustee Kilty, unconvinced, voting against. The board congratulated President Schaffer, who laughed and said, “This just means the work starts.”

 

Administration defends fast-tracking welding program