VC collaboration provides training to meet demand for truck drivers
Jan. 24, 2012 at 5:03 p.m.
Updated Jan. 23, 2012 at 7:24 p.m.
Every five weeks, another 15 to 20 people will leave Victoria College with jobs, skilled to take on the demands of the booming trucking industry.
VC announced Tuesday it is collaborating with Key Energy Services to train truck drivers for the Houston company's oil services business.
"It's just a new avenue for us to try and get opportunities out there for people who want to join the industry. We have a lot of room for advancement in the ... industry and in Key Energy Services," said Peyton Lundy, vice-president of fluid management services at Key Energy.
The collaboration reverses the usual order of things: Go to school, get a job. In this instance, Key Energy Services has already hired the students, who will then be paid to train in the new five-week program at VC.
The company considered partnering with other schools for their training efforts but said VC looked to be able to meet a long list of their expectations.
"At the end of the day, we were going to come away with a quality and safety aspect of a good ... driver, which is imperative to Key Energy Services," said Wanda Bullard, the company's senior director of human resources.
The first class of 14 students training to be vacuum truck operators began Monday. Once completed, students will have a commercial driver's license with a tanker and hazmat endorsement. They will be certified to work with Key Energy's fluid management department, which transports and disposes fluids used in the oil and gas industry.
Out-of-town students in the first class are rooming in the University of Houston-Victoria's Jaguar Court, which also provides food for the students.
Two students - one from Mission and one from Anaheim, Calif. - reflected the spectrum of appeal the collaboration can conjure.
Nicolas Villarreal, 29, of Mission, said he had been working with Key Energy Services for almost a year when he heard of the opportunity at VC.
"I figured it was time to grow in this company for my future and the future of my family," he said.
Meanwhile, his classmate Jason Hatfield came on board after leaving his job as a residential building contractor when the California housing market weakened.
He hopped to Texas, where Key Energy Services was waiting to give him a job.
"What's going on here is unprecedented in my experience because (Key Energy Services is) taking a huge gamble on who's taking that class," he said. "For me, they're putting up so much. All I want to do when I get out there is put up 100 percent and show them their investment was worth it for me."
VC is jumping full-force into the collaboration, too. The college has brought in three extra trucks for the endeavor, up from the single truck the college previously split between its Victoria and Gonzales locations, college President Tom Butler said. The trucks are on loan from Houston Community College, he added.
VC has also added three new instructors, bringing the total number to four truck driving trainers.
The collaboration is an extension of VC's commitment to provide a workforce trained to the needs of employers, Butler said.
"It's kind of our core business over here in Continuing Education - finding a need and designing a curriculum for that need," Butler said. "In some ways, we're building a reputation for being flexible and meeting our employees' needs."
Key Energy Services is working to fill the next class of students. Lundy said he is confident the classes will be ongoing.
"Our expectation going forward is that there will be a need for commercial operators, and until we see that change, we're going to continue to fill the seats in our trucks across the country," Lundy said."