As baby boomers continue to retire at a fast rate, local communities and business leaders struggle to fill industrial manufacturing positions; turning to The University of New Mexico’s Gallup branch to help fill the void with the development of a new certificate program for students.

“As baby boomers continue to retire, a skill's gap has grown, and our new program is just one of many plans to bridge that gap.” - Jon Saatvedt, UNM visiting lecturer

Campus leaders plan to call the new program Process Technology. While the program is still being developed, it has received preliminary approval.

“It was born out of demand,” Visiting Lecturer Jon Saatvedt said.

Marathon Petroleum

Nearly 20 minutes outside of Gallup is a Marathon Petroleum refinery that employs more than 200 people. The city of more than 21,600 people is also home to a municipal Water and Wastewater Treatment Facility. Saatvedt calls the growing demand of process operators and production technicians, “a call to help keep our community alive and prosperous.” According to Saatvedt as retirement and turnover rates approach 10 percent, the need for specialized training continues to increase.

“The turnover rate of new hires, in some manufacturing industries, is greater than 50 percent due to knowledge and skill gaps,” Saatvedt said. “As baby boomers continue to retire, a skill's gap has grown, and our new program is just one of many plans to bridge that gap.”

Saatvedt said the Process Technology program includes eight core classes students must pass to earn their certificate. Classes will include courses for industrial safety, process instrumentation, quality and process control, and an introduction to different manufacturing process industries.

“The program is about updating skill sets,” Saatvedt said. “This program will help prepare students with classroom instruction, a hands-on lab, and practical exercises and computer-based simulations for work in modern manufacturing plants that could include oil refineries, water or wastewater treatment plants, food processing plants and other manufacturing sectors where raw materials are converted into finished goods.”

Saatvedt said he and his colleagues have benchmarked other higher education institutions that have similar programs; the newest introduced at Bismarck State in North Dakota where a Marathon Petroleum plant is also located.

Saatvedt said if all goes well in its development phase, students could sign up for classes next spring.

“This is an opportunity for us to meet the needs of local employers by developing students, who we may not have catered to in the past,” he said. “The demand from the local community is greater than it’s ever been. I’m excited and I know the team here in Gallup is excited for students to have a program like this to help what will inevitably benefit the workforce here in the state.”