12:20 a.m., Feb. 7, 2013

Administration defends fast-tracking
welding program

The Laramie County Community College administration defended its decision to fast-track the reinstitution of a welding program during the board of trustees’ study session Feb. 6.

LCCC President Dr. Joe Schaffer told the trustees that the Wyoming Community College Commission, earlier in the day, had approved the proposed new addition adjacent to the Career and Technical Building, contingent upon the welding curriculum’s approval.

However, trustee Dr. Kevin Kilty was critical of the proposal, taking issue partly because of the lack of what he referred to as a business plan. Other concerns voiced about the plan included the fate of students who might not have finished the program before the pilot period is ended, or they might, once graduating, go to other states to find work.

Job availability in question

A primary source of the conversation, however, came from the speculation of whether job availability in the Laramie County area would cause enough demand to require the welding program to be reinstituted in the first place.

According to Schaffer, a number of companies are looking to move to the Cheyenne area, creating a job market for welders in the near future. Schaffer said this growing need was a reason to proceed with the expedited pilot program, allowing for the production of graduated students sooner to help fill those positions.

Kilty pointed out if these companies were, indeed, planning to uproot and move to the area, it could be as soon as a matter of months, at which time the program “wouldn’t even be off the ground,” let alone have produced trained individuals to fill these potential openings. “They’ll have found their workers someplace else,” Kilty said.

Trustee Ed Mosher also asked whether any sort of agreement had been discussed with these businesses such as a memorandum of understanding (MOU) describing a plan for these potential employers to hire the students graduating from the LCCC program. MOUs such as these with companies looking to make the Cheyenne area their home would at least give some security to students looking to enroll in the program, should it be implemented.

Stan Torvik, the vice president of work force and community development, highlighted the number of welding types and applications that might become the focus of the program and the industries in the state that would require welders with such training. One of the big names dropped was that of Phil Anschutz and his Power Company of Wyoming project looking to spend $9 billion to build one of the largest wind farms in the country near Rawlins. This is a project that would require a large number of employees, including welders, to accomplish.

Questions left unanswered

The questions the trustees seemed to have were how long these employers would be looking, how many new jobs a year would be available from them, and how sustainable this would be to justify the spending of upward of $700,000 to restart a welding program.

Kilty had further questions involving where the college would find the students to fill the program and where, even with the speculation of the growing businesses, they would go once they graduated. Citing a welding program in Torrington, “[they have] got a great program up there, there’s no doubt,” Kilty said, but this fact does not seem to keep the workers in Goshen County.

It is because of this, Kilty said, “I, personally, wouldn’t feel real comfortable telling the Laramie County taxpayers that we’ve got a big program that’s going to train people that go off to other jurisdictions and benefit them and benefit [Laramie County] very little.”

Even after Schaffer spent some time answering a number of these and other questions, some large issues were still giving pause to a few members of the board, such as the lack of a complete business plan with a budget planned out through the two-year pilot period, outlined revenue sources, employment, student and equipment breakdowns.

President Schaffer agreed to further meetings outside the board to explore and define these issues before the business meeting Feb. 20.

Welding Training Area Addition: Feasibility Study

Request form for pilot welding program

Employment projections

Letters regarding Flex-Tech building, programs

January 2013: 2,000 square feet to be added to career tech

December 2012: Need for welding sparks plans to jump-start program