Community college continues to meet changing labor needs.

Signs of burgeoning oil exploration are all around the region.

The business has brought more visitors to town, as local hoteliers would attest.

While that means new opportunities for many local businesses, schools also must be key players in the equation.

In anticipation of a growing need for workers in the oil industry, Garden City Community College added an Oil Technology Program to its list of offerings.

Students can pursue an exploration certificate or a production certificate. Either could lead to an associate in applied science degree.

Creation of the program was a timely move. Job growth in oil exploration and production is expected to soar in Kansas, according to industry projections. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has forecast the creation of 1 million new jobs by 2020 nationwide in oil and gas construction and extraction.

As oil-related companies move to the region, the need for trained workers will rise. The new program at GCCC also promises to help those already in the business gain new skills and training.

GCCC's strategy includes working alongside oil companies, to better gauge their interests and needs.

Such partnerships are essential at a college charged with playing a vital role in community growth and development. Should the Sunflower Electric Power Corp. expansion plan move forward in Holcomb, for example, GCCC would be in position to train workers for that project, as well.

It's all part of GCCC's evolving mission at a time workforce development is becoming all the more critical as a way to foster economic development.

Today's GCCC isn't the GCCC of yesteryear, after all. The school attracts a greater variety of students than ever before, ranging from the more traditional in high school graduates, to working adults seeking education and enrichment, and those in the school's business and industrial programs.

At a time employment has dried up in other areas, the oil industry offers a new opportunity. It's good to know prospective workers can get necessary schooling at GCCC, and not have to go elsewhere for the training and skills needed to succeed in the field.