May 14, 2003

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Northern Oklahoma College process tech program teaches basic skills

Working in the classroom and laboratories on the Northern Oklahoma College Tonkawa campus, this year’s crop of Process Tech graduates have learned the basic skills and fundamentals in a program unique to Oklahoma.

Studying such subjects as Safety, Health and Work Practices, Principles of Quality, Industrial Instrumentation, Process Troubleshooting, and Process Technology Equipment, Systems and Operations on their way to an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Engineering Technology—Process Technology option, the students utilize computer and instrumentation labs and a process lab with state-of-the art equipment designed to give the feel of the pending job.

“Our students dismantle and reassemble [valves, pumps and turbines] donated by Conoco,” notes instructor Larry Powell, retired Conoco Production superintendent. Upon completion of the program, the students will be employable at entry-level positions in numerous industries.

To date, Powell says, nearly all Process Tech graduates have been employed by Conoco upon earning their degrees. Two were employed by OG&E. However, Powell and the students have found “stacks of job opportunities” all over the United States while searching the Internet.

“We have 10 computers in our computer lab, used in conjunction with a simulated process that would be found in any refinery or gas plant,” says Powell, who oversees the program along with instructor Raymond Johns, retired Conoco instrument technician.

Other instructors, all experts in their various areas, include Chris Short, a current process operator at Conoco; L.D. Myers, retired safety resource personnel and Dennis Coates, retired training supervisor, both formerly with Conoco; Mike Stewart, formerly supervisor for the Conoco carbon fiber plant; and Susan Arterbery, safety supervisor for Charles Machine Works (Ditch Witch) in Perry. Small classes allow instructors to give individual attention to students and allow students to have plenty of hands-on experience with equipment.

“The program prepares students to develop careers as safe, efficient, environmentally responsible Process Technologist,” says Dr. Virgil Ackerson, chair of the Division of Science, Mathematics and Engineering, who along with Dr. Roger Stacy, vice president for academic affairs, was a prime force in inaugurating the comprehensive two-year program in 1999.

Thanks in part to a $125,000 grant from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education Economic Development Program, the college was able to purchase equipment, computers and other necessary supplies. Conoco, Inc. (now ConocoPhillips) provided assistance by donating equipment, providing advice and by accepting summer interns.

Summer interns have received salaries at Conoco funded by a grant from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) and matched by Conoco. Conoco also has accepted other interns, thus enabling students to gain extremely valuable experience and to demonstrate their abilities to function in their assigned settings.

Process Tech instructors strive to keep abreast of needs of industries, particularly fellow members of the MidContinent Process Technology Alliance, a partnership of industry and education to develop a technical work force. In cooperation with the welding school at Pioneer Technology Center in Ponca City, Northern is beginning construction of an on-campus decanter system which separates oil from water.

Story Contact: Marjilea Smithheisler, NOC