UACCM Gets the Green Light For Petroleoum Technology Degree

With the stamp of approval to begin offering an Associate of Applied Science degree in petroleum technology, the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton (UACCM) is gearing up for its role in a business venture that could pump millions of dollars into the state’s economy. During its quarterly meeting on April 28, the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board (AHECB) gave the green light to the college for the startup of the new degree. The UACCM Board of Visitors and the University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees had previously approved a proposal by UACCM to offer the one-of-a-kind degree, which will be launched during the fall 2006 semester. The curriculum was developed in consultation with representatives from the oil and gas industry including Houston-based Southwestern Energy Company and its wholly-owned subsidiary SEECO, Inc. 
The Associate of Applied Science degree in petroleum technology will consist of 63 credit hours, including 18 hours of general education courses and 45 hours of technical courses, with 16 hours of petroleum technology-related courses. Petroleum and technical courses required for the degree include Introduction to the Petroleum Industry, Drilling Operations, Completion Operations, Production Operations, Petroleum Regulations and Safety, Hydraulics and Pneumatics, Introduction to Digital Systems, Motors and System Controls, and Medic First Aid.
Southwestern Energy Company recently announced a three-year pledge totaling $200,000 to UACCM to assist in the development of the program. The driving force of the partnership between Southwestern Energy Company and UACCM is increased natural gas production in what is known as the Fayetteville Shale Play, an area of natural gas drilling, gathering, and field operations in Franklin, Conway, Van Buren, Cleburne, and Faulkner Counties. Geologists and engineers believe this geologic structure located within the Arkoma Basin of eastern Oklahoma and north central and western Arkansas may hold one of the largest supplies of natural gas in the United States. Residents of west central and northern Arkansas are leasing their land to national oil and gas companies in record numbers.
Plans for the petroleum technology degree began when UACCM was approached by representatives of the oil and gas industry regarding the development of credit and non-credit training to prepare students for the employment wave expected to accompany the expanded gas exploration and drilling. After consulting with the industry representatives, UACCM administrators reviewed similar programs at Odessa College (Texas), Rocky Mountain Oil and Gas Training Center (Wyoming), and High Plains Technology Center (Oklahoma).  Several college officials visited Schlumberger’s training center in Kellyville, Oklahoma, as well as current drilling areas of Conway and Van Buren Counties and Curt Hippensteel, UACCM Director of Community Outreach, completed the training program at the High Plains Technology Center in Oklahoma.
To support its future staffing efforts, Southwestern Energy Company has established the relationship with UACCM that will provide for trained workers. The company began its drilling program in the Fayetteville Shale Play in 2004 and now has lease holdings of approximately 875,000 net acres in the undeveloped play area. During 2006, the company plans to significantly accelerate its activity in the Play by investing approximately $400 million, which includes drilling 175 to 200 wells. 
Personnel that will benefit from the formal training program at UACCM include roustabouts, field operators, foremen, compressor and measurement technicians, floorhands, drillers, and rig managers. Salaries for these positions range from $27,000 up to $92,500 annually. 
UACCM has already begun short-term, non-credit courses for the current employees working in the field including health, safety, and environmental training for new employees and basic knowledge and skills training related to drilling operations, medic first aid, and forklift operations.
The surge in oil exploration and drilling operations will not only create a host of new jobs but should also expand educational opportunities throughout the area. Employment needs in the area are projected to range from 200 to 300 initially with a continuing need for additionally trained employees within the next several years.
UACCM Director of Institutional Advancement Mary Clark said, “The positive collaboration between the college, local government and city officials, and representatives of the oil and gas industry is creating a synergy that should lead to significant economic growth for the area. The college is proud to be part of an endeavor that will have tremendous benefits for the citizens of Conway County.”
In preparation of this new degree offering, UACCM is currently remodeling part of its Technology II Building, creating 5,000 square feet of classroom and lab space. More information is available by contacting the UACCM Admissions Office.

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