Report: Vocational courses booming

Vocational training at Howard College has not only taken off, but is continuing to grow, according to the quarterly update received by the Big Spring Economic Development Corporation on Tuesday afternoon.Kinsey Hansen, solid works representative for Howard College, reported that the summer cohort — May through August — had 31 students enrolled in 40 classes. All students completed the course, with 17 who have identified that their courses led to employment. Fall enrollment shows 68 students in 147 vocational training classes. According to enrollment numbers, there are 21 students in electrical, 51 in welding, 30 in core curriculum, 11 in heavy equipment, 26 in wind and eight in hydraulics. “Our welding program is continuing to take off; obviously with 51 students we have a great demand for this course,” Hansen said. “We are continuing to offer classes to students, but we are also offering business specific classes which are workforce training classes geared specifically on business requirements.”The first solid works class — 3D software which enables individuals to draft in 3D format and test a product or design before it is ever produced — has also been completed. “We have identified this class as a huge need in this area through our advisory committee,” Hansen said. “We can draft it and test it before we print it, get prototype and go through all methods of the product.”Another addition is the on-site heavy equipment class. The first class is being held at a the high school in Garden City, with 10 students enrolled. “These students are very excited. They have been wanting this class for more than a year and we are very happy that we were able to get that out there,” Hansen said. Though the new semester is already kicking off, there are more classes to come in the following months, officials said. Motivation Education Training (MET) partnership class will start in October as well as a wind class. An additional class pertaining to truck driving has also been added, due to a significant demand represented in that industry. There are two classes offered, depending on the requirements, traditional or shortened course. The fifth class began earlier this week. Renewable energy is proving to be a field in high demand, as well. According to Hansen a niche was found through the Tractel rope and rescue training. Howard College continues to be a global trainer, with area industries specifying Howard College as the designated training facility. “We are excited that we had a student come in from Australia just for Tractel training. That is very exciting to be able to say we are a global trainer,” Hansen said. An addition for solar energy is in the works. A small scale house, which will be powered by wind and solar energy, is being constructed in order to be used in the classes. The construction was put off due to demand for improvements in other areas in the vocational training courses. “We had industry needing other classes so we put the house on the side so we could strengthen the PLC and hydraulics classes to get those going for local industry,” Hanson said. Electrical lab expansion has reached completion. All identified needs have been addressed and added on as identified. “Of course, once we go back and look we will probably find more to add on, but at this point for the first time we are ahead of the game on electrical. We are excited to have that completed,” Hansen said. Green construction technology will be launching in the next fall semester. A full-time staff member was recently hired, allowing the course to move forward. Gary Morris will serve as instructor for the program.“He brings many years of experience and we are excited to bring him on board,” she said. Dual credit courses are also taking off with area high schools.“We have Coahoma students also taking part in other classes that are offered in the dual credits courses. This is also the first time the Stanton students have been able to work it into their schedules to travel to the Big Spring campus and take part in the technical dual credit courses,” Hanson said. The quarterly report is provided to the EDC on the vocational program in regards to the grant awarded in 2009 to help jump start the vocational program at the college. Part of the requirement for the grant was to report back to the EDC board on a quarterly basis with the progress of the program. “It seems the vocational training program has just exploded.” Big Spring EDC Executive Director Terry Wegman said. Other topics on the agenda included approval of the annual report for 2011-2012. According to Wegman, the report is a way for those wanting to know what the BSEDC is doing to receive all the information. “Anyone who wants to look at this can come by and pick one up, we can email it to them or however they need us to get it to them. It is available to anyone who wants a copy and it serves as a great snapshot of what’s going on with the EDC,” Wegman said. The board also received and approved the financials for the month of August. In that report sales tax was shown at a 32 percent year over year increase and a 19.4 percent increase year to date. “All in all it’s a good year. We are nearly 20 percent ahead (in sales tax) and doing well,” Rodney Bomar, treasurer/secretary, said. Wegman also reported that the Big Spring Rail System and Boyce Galvanizing, two of the bigger projects on going at this time, are moving forward and should both be up and running by the beginning of 2013. Big Spring Rail System is in the process of training four people and awaiting the arrival of the second locomotive. Boyce Galvanizing is already receiving shipments of zinc for production and is projecting a $1.5 million payroll.“The bottom line is that we are all about the return on investment. We plant the seed money and over time we watch it grow,” Wegman said. Contact Staff Writer Amanda Duforat at 263-7331 ext. 234 or by e-mail at