Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
Havre’s local university is expanding its programs, bringing in one new program in the alternative energy field and reviving a degree in water treatment. Greg Kegel, dean of the College of Technical Sciences at Montana State University-Northern, said about a dozen people have called to ask about a proposed degree in wind turbine repair and maintenance. Northern hasn’t even started advertising the program yet, he added. “There’s lots of interest out there, people wanting to get into this line of work,” Kegel said Thursday. “I’ve been surprised by the number of people who called without us getting word out.” He added that even if the program is not initially approved, Northern intends to offer the classes in-house until the official paperwork is completed. Carol Reifschneider, an associate professor in Northern’s Arts and Sciences Department, said this morning that the university already has revived another program the Montana Board of Regents of Higher Education in March approved bringing Northern’s associate degree program in water quality out of moratorium for next fall. “We have been teaching classes from the degree continuously,” Reifschneider added, although students couldn’t Major in the program and receive a degree from it. The program was placed under moratorium in November 2007 due to a lack of enrollment, Reifschneider said. Reifschneider said a few students already have contacted the university to express interest in majoring in the two-year program. She added that there always has been a need for qualified people to operate water and wastewater treatment plants. “Cities and communities need these professionals to ensure protection of their citizens and for the environment,” she said. She added that there is an increasing need for water treatment specialists, as many now in the field are nearing retirement. Kegel said that the new wind turbine degree proposed at his college is just a start in focusing on alternative energy. The focus on wind energy made that a good place to begin. “There’s going to be more and more wind turbines each year, and there’s going to be a demand for techs to do maintenance,” Kegel said. Northern and its three partners in the endeavor, the colleges of technology in Billings, Butte and Great Falls, received a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to implement the program. Donations, including a private donation and a donation from NorthWestern Energy, also are providing equipment, Kegel said. Other programs are in the works, including working with the Idaho State University Energy Systems Technology and Education Center to develop uniform curricula in energy fields. Kegel said the main focus on that is in preparing workers for the proposed Many Stars coalto- liquid facility on the Crow Indian Reservation. The focus will depend on the progress on building the plant, he added. “If that thing materializes into reality we all will be involved in that,” Kegel said.