- Associated Press - Monday, December 26, 2016

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Josh Devonshire got the best kind of education: hands-on. The advanced manufacturing student at Francis Tuttle Technology Center built equipment he likely someday will use at a job. The materials, training software and certification practice tests are all donated as part of a cooperative effort with the career tech and Siemens Industry Inc.

Instructor Danny Ware said industry partnerships are vital to students’ learning because he wouldn’t otherwise have the money to purchase hardware and software at retail prices. The manufacturing and oil and gas industries frequently hire students enrolled in his advanced manufacturing and instrumentation and control systems classes.

The parts for the programmable-logic control board Devonshire built in the summer have a retail price of about $20,000, but thanks to hardware discounts and software donations from Siemens, students were able to build six such devices for less than $5,000.

Amanda Beaton, Siemens U.S. manager for the company’s cooperative education program, flew from Atlanta to Oklahoma City one Thursday to receive Francis Tuttle’s outstanding industry partner award. Ware said students like Devonshire get hands-on experience building with donated equipment and are able to take practice tests free.

Beaton said her company developed the training curriculum and certification tests because Siemens’ clients wanted assurance that potential employees understand how to use the equipment, according to The Journal Record (https://bit.ly/2hWJf7x ). PLC machinery is used to control manufacturing machinery and to monitor and control oil and gas operations at well sites.

Beaton said Siemens spent $1 million in its education partnership program nationwide with about 400 schools. About 75 percent of the educational institutions are two-year career-tech centers like Francis Tuttle. The tech center was the first in the nation to receive Siemens’ training, she said.

Other industry groups partner with Francis Tuttle to help train the next generation of workers. The Oklahoma Energy Resources Board provides free tuition for petroleum industry classes there. OERB has $70,000 budgeted for the 2016-2017 school year, said spokeswoman Dara McBee.

Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association spokesman Cody Bannister said industry partnerships with educational institutions are critical to meeting the demand for workers. The average age of oil and gas workers is 55 years.

“Recruiting young, intelligent, hardworking Oklahomans is paramount to the future success of the oil and gas industry,” Bannister said.

Ware said demand for workers in oil and gas and manufacturing is high enough that the last eight students were hired before they completed the PLC training program.

“It’s not enough to be a good mechanic anymore,” he said. “You have to understand the computer programming, too.”

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Information from: The Journal Record, https://www.journalrecord.com

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