Partnership offers special training, new degree

Graphic courtesy of G4S

G4S Partnership series

by Brittney Richerson

Graphic by Danie Clawson

A two-day, simulation-based training event for local first responders and a potential homeland security degree plan are on the horizon for Amarillo College as a result of its recent partnership with G4S.

About 30 to 35 area emergency responders will be invited to attend a special training session on the AC East Campus Dec. 8-9, said Dr. Shawn Fouts, dean of career and technical education. The Panhandle Regional Planning Commission is working with an advisory board to determine who will be invited, Fouts said.

“PRPC has offered this type of course in previous months, but in looking at curriculum, it is like the difference between junior high level and graduate level,” Fouts said.

“We’re bringing in a graduate-level course.”

He said the course, which normally would cost about $40,000 or more, is being provided by G4S, an international company, free of charge.

“It’s serving as a pilot program and from there, we’ll see where we go with it and what else we can bring in,” Fouts said.

Attendees will register at and receive continuing education credit.

“The people we are inviting might need these hours, and they would usually have to pay or PRPC would sponsor the event,” he said.

“This just happens to be an incredible event where they can get some hours and advanced training they’re not going to get anywhere else in the country.”

Fouts said AC benefits because participants will be registered as continuing education students at the college.

“This helps them in their career, and it helps us, showing the state that we’ve had this many students participate in our classes,” he said.

“We win indirectly by being a partnering agency in this.”

The company will provide its own instructors from the United Kingdom who have experience in responding to urban terrorism, Fouts said.

“It’s frightening, but urban terrorism has come home,” he said.

The training will focus on teaching first responders – law enforcement, bomb squads, firefighters, emergency medicine technicians and SWAT teams – how to deal with terrorism on American soil.

“These days, things are different from the way they were 20 years ago,” said Alex Chancia, coordinator of the Panhandle Regional Law Enforcement Academy on the West Campus.

“Yes, there have been terrorist attacks throughout time, but they seem more prevalent now. If we can offer something to better prepare people, I think that’s great.”

AC President Dr. Paul Matney said the event gives AC the opportunity to accommodate the needs of emergency responders from around the region.

“A number of first-responder folks are really going to get some first-class training,” he said.

Amarillo College’s partnership with G4S could benefit a potential new program in homeland security that Dr. Shaw Fouts, dean of career and technical education, has in the works.

“We have all the components; we’ve just not ever brought them together into one, cohesive unit,” Fouts said. “We win because of our partnership with G4S. Their curriculum works in with our homeland security degree that we’re working with.

“It’s one of those indirect things that we couldn’t do on our own. We get international expertise.”

The degree plan will combine the resources AC already has, such as the Panhandle Regional Law Enforcement Academy, Regional Fire Academy, emergency medicine technician program and international law, environmental safety and computer information systems courses.

The program will use AC’s accredited curriculum. G4S will help by sharing its expertise and occasionally sending its instructors for special seminars.

Fouts said the homeland security program will be unlike any other currently offered by the institution because it will be cross-divisional.

“We’re not looking to create a new department,” he said. “The goal is to take the best of all the departments and bring them together.”

Fouts said AC will not be the only school to offer a homeland security degree but that the program will have the opportunity to implement unique elements because of the college’s partnership with G4S.

The degree will be transferable to a four-year college, he said.

The homeland security degree also will be flexible so students can decide what they want to specialize in, according to Fouts.

“Your major could be homeland security, but you want to focus on the criminal justice side, the fire safety side or the CIS side of it,” he said. “You’ll have the chance to get a little of all of it, but there will be something available for you to choose to really specialize in.”

Why offer a homeland security program?

“When we look at starting programs, we always look at the Department of Labor and what they are projecting as high-demand occupations,” Fouts said. “Homeland security and its elements continue to be projected as high-in-demand.”

AC President Dr. Matney said homeland security not only is one of the targeted jobs of the future, but fighting urban terrorism is growing in importance.

“We know the importance of protecting the homeland,” he said. “We know that some people anticipate that we’re going to be fighting terrorism on our own soil. We certainly hope not, but I think the country is preparing to be ready for that.”

Matney said it is important to the country and to the community that America is kept as safe as possible.

These are big plans,” he said. “They may or may not materialize, but if they do, I think it’s another way that Amarillo College can keep our finger on the pulse of our community and our area and respond to needs.”

Who should be interested?

Fouts said the program is ideal for students interested in working as any kind of emergency responder, such as a police officer, firefighter or EMT. Students considering international careers or careers with the federal government, border patrol, security or seeking to enter the military as an officer also should consider the degree.

“I see this degree being the right path for someone who wants to serve their country,” said Alex Chancia, coordinator of the Panhandle Regional Law Enforcement Academy.

Fouts said the degree will be flexible, allowing students to pick what they want to specialize in.

“We think students are really going to like it,” he said. “They can gain a broad knowledge of homeland security, but if they decide they like the law side, they can focus on the paralegal classes and apply it to the homeland security degree.”

When will it be available?

“A student may not be able to declare homeland security as their degree right away,” Fouts said.

“They can begin taking the components that we already have in place until we’re ready to roll out the actual degree, though.”

He said it could take at least six months to a year before they are ready to launch the new program.

“We want to do it right,” Fouts said.

“The danger is getting in too quick and not having a solid program, so we are intentionally taking things slow.”

Down the road…

“The whole goal is for this to be called a ‘Regional Center for Excellence,'” Fouts said.

He said it is likely the program would attract students across the nation. He also sees the program offering courses online for students worldwide.

Plans to find room on the East Campus for a potential homeland security building are underway, he said. All of the individual elements of the degree would be offered in the building at different times.

“It would be a very functional, user-friendly building where we would move classes and programs in and out constantly,” Fouts said.


Originally published: Thursday, October 20, 2011

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