AC eyes international opportunity

Graphic by Danie Clawson

Potential partnership with G4S could lead to training in Kurdistan

Graphic courtesy of G4S

By Brittney Richerson

A potential partnership with an international company may have Amarillo College reaching out beyond the Texas Panhandle soon. As far out as Erbil, Kurdistan, in fact.

AC President Dr. Paul Matney and Dr. Shawn Fouts, dean of career and technical education, have been negotiating a partnership with G4S, an international security solutions provider, to expand AC work force training and programs, Fouts said.

“G4S called Dr. Matney and myself last May,” he said. “They said, ‘We would just like to meet and talk and share something with you.’”

Kurdistan, located in northern Iraq, is projected to be the third largest oil-producing region in the world, Fouts said. G4S has an office in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, and G4S representatives informed Matney and Fouts that the oil company there is struggling to find qualified workers.

G4S employees working in Erbil who are former Pantex employees suggested getting AC involved to properly train welders and machinists, Fouts said.

“It’s just really developed and started culminating to where they really need us to potentially provide an instructor in Erbil,’” Fouts said.

“It can be somebody from Amarillo, or they actually do some of this training and they can help find an instructor. If we approve of the instructor, we’ll make them an Amarillo College employee, but they will be working out of Erbil.”

Fouts said AC plans to start by sending a welding instructor to Kurdistan. The instructor will train 20 Kurdistan students, who will be registered through AC as continuing education students. After completing the program, the students will be certified by the American Welding Society. The top students will be trained to teach welding.

“We can pull out or start offering other classes, because we will have created a welding class on our own,” Fouts said.

He said AC’s welding program usually takes two years to complete but that it will be condensed into a one-year program for the Kurdistan students.

“The students will probably be hired by the oil community, and their job for one year is to do nothing but go to school,” Fouts said. “They are going to be making their wage from the oil community, and the oil community will pay G4S whatever fee we set up, then G4S will pay us up front.”

He said AC will not be financially liable in the partnership.

“G4S is paying everything up front, so even if within a month it all fails and falls apart and our instructor comes home, we still have a full year’s worth of funding,” he said. “There’s no financial risk. Our investment is the administrative.”

Fouts said G4S also would pay the instructor’s salary.

Because the AC welding program is less expensive than G4S using a third-party company for training, Fouts said AC has the opportunity to build in a revenue stream.

“This is not an academic endeavor. This is a training endeavor, so we set our cost accordingly,” he said. “We build in a revenue margin to help offset our budgetary deficit.”

Preliminary plans were presented to the board of regents in the president’s report at the regular meeting Sept. 27. Plans surrounding the partnership do not require the board to take action.

“It seems it will work out pretty well in the long run,” said Regent Carroll Forrester.

Don Nicholson, board of regents vice chairman, said he understood there was a possible opportunity and that Matney and Fouts have informed the board of updates as plans have developed.

“We’re always looking for opportunities,” Nicholson said. “This allows for more exposure into areas we haven’t worked in before. It has potential to open doors.”

He said AC has done a good job providing specialized training and that the plan could provide international recognition for what the school does.

“It is a win-win situation, from what I see,” Nicholson said.

Fouts said the partnership would be good for AC because it would gain the college national and international attention, produce a revenue stream and give AC a footprint in an international company.

“It’s no different from what we are doing now; it’s just that we’ll be doing it in another country,” he said.

“It sets us on a national and international stage as a community college.”

He said Houston Community College has been involved in a similar program for 10 years and that he and Matney have been getting advice from HCC administrators who are involved with its part

nership with G4S.

Fouts said long-term plans include Kurdistan sending students to local AC campuses to study business, management and accounting.


Originally published: Thursday, October 20, 2011

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