Southwest Kansans who want to drill down into new careers in the field of energy, or take to the skies as pilots, can count on some important opportunities emerging right now at Garden City Community College.

Those opportunities include a Private Pilot Ground School course and the GCCC Oil Technology Program, which was approved recently by the Kansas Board of Regents. The Oil Technology Program lets you take a set of core classes, and then focus your choice among two options: oil exploration or oil production.

You can benefit if you're ready to enter the oil exploration and production field, or if you're already working in the industry, since plans call for comprehensive courses as well as short-term training.

Real-world skills

Those who enroll will practice and learn real-world job skills in the process of drilling and extraction of oil from underground reservoirs. They also can earn stackable credentials recognized in the energy industry and choose from these individual outcomes:

* an exploration certificate, involving 22 college credit hours;

* a production certificate, involving 36 college credit hours;

* an associate in applied science degree, including 67 credit hours and incorporating either or both certificates.

The curriculum is designed to combine classroom, lab and field experience in safety, moving, set-up and operation of the equipment used in today's fast-expanding oil exploration operations.

The drilling component focuses on traditional drilling methods, as well as directional drilling. In the innovative new directional drilling process, students will get a thorough overview of wellbores and learn about two- and three-dimensional controls, drill string design, stuck pipe prevention and blowout prevention.

The oil production component focuses on the methods and practices it takes to handle efficient oil production in the field. With either option, students will drill down on the basics of well completion, well site maintenance, recovery and production methods and hydraulic, pneumatic and electronic core competencies.

Career potential, industry support

Job growth in oil exploration and production is expected to increase significantly in Kansas in the years ahead, according to industry projections. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has forecast the creation of 1 million new jobs by 2020 in oil and gas construction and extraction.

Starting wages in the field range from $12 to more than $40 per hour, depending on qualifications and experience, and may equate to potential annual earnings of greater than $80,000.

Our college has been training men and women for successful careers since 1919, and the GCCC Oil Technology Program is relying on support and involvement from American Warrior, Chesapeake Energy, Cimarex Energy, Petro Santander, Inc., and other industry partners.

Representatives will be serving on an experienced program advisory board, and the partners will be called on to offer apprenticeships, assist in development and provide help or equipment for on-site training.

The program will be getting under way in the upcoming spring semester, and anyone interested in GCCC Oil Technology can find out more by contacting the Technical Education Division at 275-3259.

Pilot course

Individuals who want to take their first steps toward getting pilot's licenses can learn what they need in a short-term evening course.

The GCCC Private Pilot Ground School course is being offered for the first time this month, and it has been scheduled to meet 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays through Jan. 30 in Room JCVT 1301 of the John Collins Vocational Building.

The course, dependent on sufficient registration, will help participants prepare for the written examination required of pilots by the Federal Aviation Administration. Students will learn about airplane systems, weather, navigation, regulations, safety, communication and airport layouts.

The class is listed as Course Number AVIA-101, and it includes four hours of college credit. Information on the class for this and future semesters is available at 276-9608.

The ground school course is being taught by experienced aviation instructor Dean Ryan, and it is a component of what could well develop into a more comprehensive aviation program.

Veterans program

It's also important right now, on another topic, to remind the community and area that the GCCC Student Government Association and Brookover Lecture Series are sponsoring a Veteran's Day program at 10:30 a.m. Friday in the auditorium of the Pauline Joyce Fine Arts Building. The keynote speaker is Daryl Paulson, a decorated U.S. Marine Corps veteran and author of "Walking the Point."

The program is free and everyone is welcome to hear the guest lecturer's perspectives on the rejection and despair encountered by veterans of the Vietnam War, as well as the trail to healing that he was able to blaze for himself and others.

We hope to see you this week on campus for the Veteran's Day presentation. In addition, we're ready to help you build a new career, whether your interests lie deep in the oil field or high above the Western Kansas horizon.