Although it began just 19 months ago, the Energy Generation Operations program at Southeast Community College is experiencing early success and praise.
The Nebraska Public Power District, at the Aug. 10 meeting of its board of directors in Columbus, adopted a resolution commending SCC for its leadership in developing the program and graduating its first class.
NPPD Board Member Gary Thompson read the resolution:
"Whereas, there is a significant need for qualified workers in the nuclear, coal, natural gas turbine and reciprocating engine, ethanol and bio-diesel production, and wind generation industries in the state of Nebraska; and
"Whereas, as a result of its commitment to Nebraska Public Power District and the energy industry in Nebraska, Southeast Community College has developed an energy systems training program in partnership with NPPD and others in order to develop a conduit to provide skilled energy systems workers to the energy industry; and
"Whereas, as a result of that collaborative effort, Southeast Community College conferred on June 8, 2012, an Associate of Applied Science degree to the first 13 students who participated in the 18-month Energy Generation Operations program.
"Now, therefore, be it resolved that the Board of Directors of Nebraska Public Power District, a political subdivision of the state of Nebraska, on behalf of its employees and the people of Nebraska whom it serves, hereby confers upon Southeast Community College its commendation for superior performance; expresses sincere appreciation for their leadership and vision that has led to the development of this important program; and finally expresses its sincere wish that Southeast Community College has continued success in all of its future endeavors."
SCC representatives Dr. Dennis Headrick, vice president for instruction; Glenn Pasho, dean of the Construction & Electronics and Communications & Information Technology divisions; and John Pierce, chair of the Energy Generation Operations program, attended the meeting.
"NPPD and SCC have worked closely together for the past four years developing the new Energy Generation Operations program on the Milford Campus," Pierce said. "This program is training operators for nuclear- and coal-powered power plants, wind turbine technicians, ethanol plant operators, as well as additional processing facilities, including fertilizer manufacturing, refineries, food and pharmaceutical processing, pulp and paper mills, and many other related industries."
SCC began the program in January 2011 and graduated its first class in June 2012. Pierce said the majority of the 13 students who graduated have secured employment in the field as operators. Pierce said the average starting wage for the group is $25 per hour, with the top wage being $32.68 per hour.
"The aging workforce and the resulting loss of experienced operators prompted NPPD and other utilities to seek education partners to develop focused programs of study to help fill the pipelines with replacement operators," Pierce said.
SCC's program is unique in that it provides a broad base of core curriculum in the first five quarters, followed by specialty courses in various focuses during the final sixth quarter. Pierce said no other college offers operator training this way.
"Most colleges that offer operations programs separate the focuses completely," he said. "SCC's system provides many more opportunities for our graduates by virtue of multiple focuses coupled to the common curriculum. This design provides more flexibility for the students, as well as long-term stability for the program."
The program enrolls students in January and July. SCC's quarter system allows students to complete the Associate of Applied Science degree in 18 months.
Persons wanting more information about SCC's Energy Generation Operations program are asked to contact Pierce at 402-761-8394 or firstname.lastname@example.org.