I am very familiar with small Colleges and Universities. About 95% of them require or encourage students to complete all of their General Education requirements within the first three years, for a number of different reasons.
Usually, the General Education requirements coincide with the course work that would have to be completed in order to receive a two-year Associates of Arts degree. Even if a student was unable to complete all four years at a small College or University, if they completed the General Education requirements, they would likely be eligible for an Associates of Arts degree.
Another reason why small Colleges and Universities require or encourage students to begin completing their General Education requirements right away, is so that their writing, math, and analytical skills are at a high enough level for them to pass the course work in their Major field of study leading to a Bachelors degree.
Most small Colleges and Universities have General Education requirements that are very similar. One of the reasons for this, is so that the College or University will be Accredited by a review board as having a legitimate educational program. Another reason for this, is so that students can transfer into, or out of, the College or University and have their course work credits accepted.
All of this information that I have just written above, is to establish that it is commonly known that it does not matter too much where a college student completes their first two or three years of school. As an aside, it was very, very common in Florida for students to graduate from High School and begin going to a local Community College. They could continue to live at home, continue working at a job they already had, and attend a college that was much less expensive. After two or three years, they could transfer to a College or University that offered B.S. and B.A. degrees.
The decision that students and their parents made on which College or University to attend, would most often be based on what special advantage it offered, and the cost. The special advantage that I am talking about, could be one of the following: was the College known to be a feeder school to employment with certain companies or industries; was the College known to have a strong and influential network of Alumni; was the College known to be gateway to esteemed Masters and Doctoral programs; did the College have a particular program that was very specialized and hard to find; was the campus environment unusually beneficial and positive.
Dickinson State University is like thousands of other small Colleges and Universities located in small towns that have very little going on. Some small college towns are located beside the ocean, in beautiful mountains, or not far from exciting metropolitan areas. Dickinson State University is not located in a beautiful environment, it is not anywhere near a desirable metropolitan destination, and it does not have a great academic reputation.
However, Dickinson State University could begin to develop a reputation as being a feeder school to employment with certain companies and industries, and a reputation for offering a very specialized and hard to find academic program.
Dickinson State University does not have the budget or the breadth of faculty to have a degree program for Petroleum Engineering or Chemical Engineering. This is O.K., because many large Universities offer this, and there is not a shortage of Petroleum Engineers and Chemical Engineers.
There is a great shortage of people who understand instrumentation, automation, and controls. Large Universities like to teach theory in their Engineering programs, and engineering students don’t spend actual hands-on time dealing with the specific actual instrumentation, automation, and control equipment that is used in the petroleum, refining, and oil industry.
Recent graduates with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering, do not have the immediate exact knowledge of how a specific brand of Programmable Logic Controller should be programmed and wired to receive signals from each kind of specific brand instrumentation, and programmed and wired to send signals to controllers and transmitters, and where and how to install the instrumentation and controls. Many engineers would not want to perform the physical labor to build and install the instrumentation and controls in the field.
Electricians do not mind installing conduit, pulling wires, building racks, and installing instrumentation, but very few of them have the classroom training to be able to know how a Programmable Logic Controller should be programmed and set up at a particular site to receive all the input signals from the instrumentation, perform decisions on the signals, and send output to the controllers and transmitters.
In industry, not just the petroleum, refining, and oil industries, but in all industries, there is a great shortage of workers who understand instrumentation, automation, and controls. In the oil field in Texas and in North Dakota, I have seen the people actually doing the installation having very limited knowledge, and the people back in the office having very limited knowledge, and the work being completed by trial and error, with a great amount of error.
In Vernal, Utah, there is Uintah Community College which offers courses in Automation and Controls. This is the only College which I am aware of, which offers courses in this. These courses exist and are possible, because there is an oil field in Vernal, Utah, and there are some personnel in Vernal, who have enough knowledge and experience to teach the courses.
What I suggest that Dickinson State University do, is create an Associates Degree program, where they offer an Associate Degree of Industrial Technology. The students would complete the General Education requirements taught by the normal DSU professors to meet the requirements of an Associates of Arts degree, but they would also be required to complete course work involving instrumentation, automation, and controls.
It should not be a secret at all, that what the DSU Associate Degree of Industrial Technology program was offering, was a chance for people who wanted to work in the oil, gas, refining, petroleum, or other industry, to receive practical hands-on training that would allow them upon graduating, to immediately go to work in industry. They would have the advantage of a demonstrated knowledge and ability in instrumentation, automation, and controls, and also the competency level of someone with an Associates Degree.
I would expect that many major petroleum companies such as Continental, Marathon, Tesoro, Conoco Philips, Amarada Hess, and Whiting who operate here in North Dakota would be very cooperative with funding assistance and instructional assistance, since this program is so needed and would be helpful to each of them. I think that the petroleum companies’ support would not only help DSU, but the entire North Dakota University system.
My estimate of the College course work required in addition to the General Education requirements would be as follows:
- 2 credit hours – Intro To Oil Field Operations: Overview of geologic formations of oil, drilling methods, fracturing methods, well completion, oil production, oil transmission, pipelines, storage, environmental issues.
- 2 credit hours – Intro To Industrial Hazards: Includes OSHA 10 Hour type instruction, H2S training, confined space, working at heights, fall protection, MSDS, hazard communication, combustibles, flamables, hazardous chemicals, fire fighting, pressures, emergency response, lifting and operator hand signals.
- 3 credit hours – Valves, Fittings, & Instrumentation: Classroom and hands-on training in valve types, operation, and failure; fittings, installation, and failure; instrumentation, flow meters, pressure meters, temperature gauges, level gauges, installation, failure, and units of measurement.
- 2 credit hours – Electrical Principles & Circuits: Classroom instruction on basic electrical principles and circuits.
- 3 credit hours – Fabrication & Welding: Classroom and hands-on training in material, taking measurements, material cutting, and welding.
- 3 credit hours – Automation & Controls I: Primarily classroom training and introduction to Programmable Logic Controllers and Controls. Instruction on programming and programming logic.
- 3 credit hours – Automation & Controls II: Primarily hands-on training where students must demonstrate their ability to set up Programmable Logic Controllers, Instrumentation, and Controls to accomplish basic functions.
- 3 credit hours – Industrial Applications: Classroom instruction and field trips to provide study and instruction on practical use and application of instrumentation, automation, and controls.
I have outlined a course of study above, where a motivated student could complete two Industrial courses per semester, in addition to their General Education requirements, if they were a full-time student. I would recommend and encourage course work in computer science and the use of common work application software such as Microsoft Word, Excel, and Project.
There are many personnel in Dickinson, many of them who I have met, who are capable of teaching much of the Industrial course work outlined above.