MORRILTON (KTHV) - If you're willing to get your hands dirty and are looking for a job in a growing Arkansas industry, keep reading.
A one-of-kind college program for Arkansas has taken off with students digging in to the natural gas industry and feeling promise about jobs after graduation. THV's Max Seigle shares a progress report on the Petroleum Technology program at the University of Arkansas Community College of Morrilton.
The natural gas industry got underway in North Central Arkansas about six years ago and with it a program to train workers in the field here at the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton. Today, student enrollment in the program has more than quadrupled and the equipment is flowing in.
Forget about the classroom for these college students and come into their lecture hall, filled with equipment for natural gas drilling.
"Ryan, if you would be down here to catch that thing if it comes off," Instructor Curt Hippensteel says to student Ryan Heffington of Conway. He started the Petroleum Technology degree last month.
"Like everything interests me, it makes school so much easier," Heffington said.
Heffington is one of about 160 students in the two-year program today. Six years ago, UACCM started with 31 students enrolled in the program.
"I had no idea at the time it would become the industry that it has in our area and I didn't know it would have the effects that it does," Hippensteel said.
Hippensteel also says that they barely had any of their equipment six years ago. But with natural gas company donations, there's everything from a well head to the separator Hippensteel's class is working on, which separates liquid and gas after the drilling process.
"Right now in the oil and gas industry, there are plenty of jobs available and our students have had a very good success rate in placing," Hippensteel said.
The college reports a five-year study of placement rates, ranging from 45 to 51 percent within 6 months of graduating. It's a no-brainer if you ask students like Heffington.
"I wanted not to show up to a job and have to learn everything, I wanted to know as much as possible about the petroleum field," Heffington said.
He's working ahead before the real work begins.
The natural gas industry has also started a scholarship program to help students, and in six years, they've received more than a half million dollars overall for UACCM's program.
Hippensteel adds that a first job after this program could start at $18 to $20 an hour.