The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 16, 2013

A spark in Enrollment

Autry Technology Center follows the trends in employment in Enid, the surrounding area

By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — An important part of Autry Technology Center’s formula for success is keeping an eye on the local economy, knowing what jobs are in demand and offering training designed to meet employer needs now and into the future.

The “hot classes” in 2013 are electronics, welding, information technology, administrative services, automotive technology, accounting services, air conditioning, collision repair, diesel technology and power products.

In addition to full-time training programs, Autry offers a large assortment of short-term classes designed to meet specific needs of area industries.

Classes of opportunity

The school provides options for welding. In-depth training is offered during the day and emphasizes gas, arc, MIG, TIG and pipe welding while utilizing the theory and practices of welding, brazing and assembly. An evening class offered once a semester includes oxyacetylene cutting and welding, arc and MIG welding. Techniques of uniting common and alloy metals in extensive hands-on experiences are covered in this class.

Ryland Stonehocker, Autry welding instructor, remembers as recently as two years ago the number of welding students and equipment needed for learning the trade filled a space half the size the program now requires. He’s watched enrollment in the welding program undergo remarkable growth.

“In the seven years I’ve been here, it’s expanded considerably,” Stonehocker said of the welding program. “We went from eight students in the morning and eight in the afternoon my first year to 22 in the morning and 22 in the afternoon.”

Welding student Lawrence Ramirez said he enrolled in welding to learn respect and self-disciple.

“I thought it would help me learn that,” Ramirez said. “I have learned to love welding.”

Ramirez bought a portable welder and is earning money making hand rails as well as working for a local automotive service shop. He’s also taking three online classes through Cowley Community College in Arkansas City, Kan. Ultimately, Ramirez has his eyes set on a specific industry.

“My plans are to become a pipeline welder and move on to nondestructive testing,” Ramirez said.

Fueling a career

Changes in the general economy and the industry’s response to them have created a new need in the automotive technology program as well.

“With businesses turning to alternative fuel to save money, Autry’s Compressed Natural Gas State of Oklahoma Certification class has experienced growth,” said Melissa Jenlink, marketing director for Autry. “Auto technicians learn the basics of CNG installation operations, state rules and regulations and have the option to take the state certification test at the end of the class.”

James Chastain, automotive instructor at Autry, helps students learn not only how to repair gasoline-fueled vehicles but to repair and maintain vehicles that operate on CNG.

More and more vehicles are powered primarily or entirely on CNG, Chastain explained. Most of the vehicles start out on CNG and run on it until the tank is empty, then switch over to gasoline.

“We think it’s going to be a very big thing in the near future,” Chastain said.

Autry is one of only a handful of technical schools licensed to teach the state-mandated CNG course.

CNG isn’t just for powering cars and trucks. It’s technology that is catching on in other areas.

“They are also converting heavy equipment as well to CNG,” Chastain said.

“With the substantial growth in the transportation industry there is a need for diesel technicians, automotive technicians, collision repair technicians, truck drivers and small engine mechanics,” Jenlink said. “Autry offers training in all areas—some that span over a couple weeks and some that could last as long as two years. Training is offered during the day and evening. Some courses are even offered over the weekend. Customized training can be put together for local businesses.”

Air conditioning and refrigeration technicians are high in demand and low in supply, he said.  Autry’s training program meets requirements of Oklahoma Construction Industry Board and International Mechanical and Fuel Gas Code.

Students learn installation, operation, maintenance and repair of residential and commercial air conditioning, heating and refrigeration systems.

Learning to troubleshoot

Every company, every industry and a growing number of households rely on a variety of technological devices. Electronic technicians install, troubleshoot, maintain and repair automated equipment controlled by electrical, electronic and computer systems used in a wide variety of applications, such as industrial robots and automated controls.

Monte Reggow, electronic systems instructor, puts it simply: “If you want to know how things work, this is where you will learn it.”

His students have gone on to be instrument and electrical technicians, oil field equipment maintenance specialists, information technology technicians, maintenance technicians and more.

“You can hire somebody off the street to run this equipment, but if a wire gets removed, it’s not going to run — and who can fix it?” Reggow said. “One of my students can fix it.”

A boom in business

There is a growing need for administrative professionals as well as professionals who can work on computers. A variety of classes offered at Autry help this area, including administrative services, accounting services, information technology and several classes focused on computers, software, leadership and management and succession planning.

Melissa Hula, instructor in the business department at Autry, said the department houses four programs, and students range from high school and college students to adults. Some students already are working in their fields and are sent by their employers to learn specific skills.

The majority of the young students go on to college, where they use their knowledge in their future coursework, Hula said.

“Now computers are in every area of business that we serve,” Hula said.

The business department will stretch out in the fall, when instructors begin teaching in a second location.

“We’re really excited that we have been asked to come in to the University Center at Enid High School next semester,” Hula said.5