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NMJC Displays Training Lab

NMJC Displays Training Lab photo 7/20/2015 11:27:59 a.m. - Hobbs, NM.  

Hands-on training in high-tech lab replicates what workers will experience

[Story by Kelly Farrell - Hobbs News Sun]

The New Mexico Junior College board’s monthly meeting took a field trip across campus Thursday to tour the new state-of-the-art Instrumentation and Controls lab.

During the meeting, NMJC President Steve McCleery escorted the group for a presentation about the lab, at which classes are slated to begin in mid-September after Labor Day.

The facility is funded by the $2.5 million Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant the Department of Labor gave to NMJC in late 2013. The lab features high tech equipment and machinery for electrical, nuclear and oil and gas industries.

McCleery said the lab gives companies in the area a chance to send their workers to be trained and help find new workers that need training.

“We are training people in a hands-on environment that replicates what they would see when they are actually going to the workforce,” McCleery said. “A better trained workforce translates into economic development for Lea County.”

McCleery said NMJC has needed an instrumentation and controls lab and the TAACCCT grant was an opportunity to pool together the best concepts and get advice from businesses and industry about its specific needs. “There’s pieces of labs [in the area], you’ll find the electrical and some of the hydraulics, but you won’t find the depth and breadth of everything that’s in the lab all together in one location,” McCleery said.

McCleery said the difference is it’s not credit based, but rather “industry-level” classes, which are designed to meet the level of training businesses need of their technicians.

Jeff McCool, vice president for Training and Outreach, said NMJC originally reached out to companies in the past with their energy technology degree program in 2009, but the program evolved to include a wider scope of industries.

“As we entered into collaborations with different companies from business and industry, the common feedback was always: but you know, if you had an instrumentation and controls piece that would be fantastic because that’s the missing link,” McCool said.

McCool said the goal is to educate and train entry-level technicians wanting to get their foot in the door.

“It could be electric and utility, oil and gas, somebody in the nuclear industry. When you look at the trainers in that lab: programmable logic controllers, industrial controls, hydraulics, pneumatics — those are skill sets that cut across all of those industries,” McCool said.

Jai Oyler, director of the TAACCCT grant program, said NMJC is about a year and half into the grant, which terms out Sept. 2017, meaning NMJC has until then to get programs running and self-sustaining.

Oyler said the program lengths vary depending on area, but they’re short term and the fast training is intended to get students into or back into the workforce as quickly as possible.

“We have people that are so affected by the oil industry and when it takes a nosedive, we get a lot who are unemployed,” Oyler said. “What we know is once they get those wells up and producing — they maintain those wells, so with this training we can move them from the drilling side around to the production side and they’re in a much more stable position with those companies.”

Oyler said NMJC gave a tour of the lab to local businesses last week, including Chevron.

“When you see industry eyes light up like we did last week when they start telling us, ‘this is exactly what we need for our people.’ Then you know as soon as students get that training under their belt — they’re going to be highly employable. That’s exciting,” Oyler said.

Kelly Farrell can be reached at 391-5437 or reporter@hobbsnews. com

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