Federal and state representatives, alongside officials and students from Oklahoma Panhandle State University (OPSU) and High Plains Technology Center (HPTC), recently broke ground on a new welding technology training center in the Guymon Industrial Park. The center was made possible by a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration.
“We are physically breaking ground with shovels but also introducing a ground-breaking new educational program to blend the best of trade and academic education,” said OPSU President, Dr. Tim Faltyn. “We are starting this program with a new welding center, but we believe the concept is transformative for the region and will soon expand to other career applications for our students and the communities of the Panhandle.”
“This innovative educational approach is an ideal fit with our mission to serve the workforce needs of Northwest Oklahoma and the Panhandle, as well as our commitment to make Oklahoma a top ten state in education programming,” noted Dwight R. Hughes, HPTC Superintendent/CEO. “This grant will give us the ability to enhance our already existing partnership with OPSU by providing a joint facility we can utilize to bring the best of both worlds together.”
Once open, the center will allow for students to earn a Welding Certificate at HPTC while also working toward an associate or bachelor degree at OPSU.
“Oklahoma must ensure the availability of skilled welders and other metal and industrial technology professionals to fill critical in-demand workforce positions,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Dr. John Fleming. “The new High Plains Technology Center will offer the training workers need to compete for jobs in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors.”
Panhandle State launched the Welding Certification Program in 2017. The four-level curriculum allows for a standardized curriculum and assessment and prepares students to take the state certification exam.
“The Oklahoma Panhandle offers the ideal intersection of outstanding educational institutions and a rich potential workforce pool. When completed, this new center should become an education model for other technical programs and a new economic engine for the region,” said Cornell Wesley, Economic Development Representative for the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration.