Published in the May 23, 2014 Santa Maria Times.

In January 2014, Allan Hancock College began a unique training program at its new Public Safety Training Complex on the Lompoc Valley Campus.

In addition to providing training in the areas of fire technology, law enforcement, emergency medical service and environmental technology.

Hancock is now working with the Petroleum Education Council (PEC) and the national Service, Transmission, Exploration and Production network to provide standardized safety training for people working or seeking employment in the burgeoning U.S. oil and gas industry.

Mona Baker, manager of the Workforce Resource Center in Santa Maria, describes this program as a great opportunity for local people to receive valuable training that can lead to well-paying jobs in an industry that is not only booming, but also facing a shortage of workers.

Lompoc Mayor John Linn agrees. The PEC program, he declares, “is a game changer.”

The PEC training program is primarily the brainchild of Rick Rantz, dean of Hancock’s Lompoc Valley Campus.

“I discovered,” he said, “that a program like this was needed. The energy industry was sending people to Texas and Louisiana for training that could be provided right here in Lompoc.”

Rantz began organizing meetings and conferences with industry leaders, exploring ways to make his vision a reality. After a year of effort, it came to fruition.

“We now have the only program like this on the West Coast,” said Rantz.

The advantages are many and far-reaching. PEC President Wes Carr points out that the “oil and gas industry is in a transitional phase right now. The current generation of workers is nearing retirement age. There is a need for trained workers.”

Lompoc Mayor Linn points to a boost for the local economy. With 2,000 to 3,000 people expected to be coming to take this training every year, the area’s hospitality industry stands to benefit greatly.

The training offered in Lompoc can be useful over the course of a lifetime.

“This can be more than just a job,” said Carr. “We’re not looking for temps. We’re looking to help people start a career. A person with the right attitude and willing to work hard has a future in the energy industry.”

The PEC program is focused on safety, extremely important in a high-risk work environment such as an offshore oil platform or an oil field. The courses can take several days to complete. Students receive a certificate upon completion of each course, certificates that are both “stackable and portable,” according to Baker. The information goes into a nationwide data base that can then be accessed by an employer when considering a person for a job. Both the worker and the company that employs them benefit.

Carr states, “The worker has a leg up” when seeking employment, since the employer doesn’t have to spend extra money to train them and can be confident the worker has adequate training for the challenges of being safe on the job.

Local people who need employment can take this training and be on their way to working in the energy industry, which is one of the reasons Baker said, “We are very happy to partner with Hancock College in this program,” and hopes local residents who are unemployed can take advantage of this opportunity.

With the U.S. now producing 8.4 million barrels of oil a day and coming ever-closer to becoming an exporter of oil, the future for a person seeking work in this sector seems bright. Hancock’s PEC program could soon be boasting about some success stories.

Mark James Miller, President, Part-Time Faculty Association of Allan Hancock College, CFT Local 6185, Santa Maria, CA