FAIRMONT, W.Va. — Students of Pierpont Community & Technical College’s petroleum technology program received early Christmas presents in the form of academic scholarships from Southwestern Energy to fund their education for the upcoming school year.

Saige Cline, of Philippi, Austin James Tingler, of Weirton, and Michael K. Lloyd, of Reader, each received $2,000 scholarships for the 2017-2018 academic year.

Robert Mills, interim dean of Pierpont’s School of Workforce Development, said the Southwestern Energy scholarships are awarded to Pierpont’s students on a competitive basis of academic performance, classroom leadership and employment potential in the oil and gas profession.

“The scholarships come from a grant that Southwest Energy gave to the Pierpont Foundation for $250,000,” Mills said. “Part of that grant is used to fund scholarships for students in our energy program here at the school.”

The remaining portion of the grant is used for equipment and training needs for the students.

While academic scholarships make a difference for any college student, Mills said these scholarships are essential to the students come from Pierpont’s students in energy-related programs.

“Most of them get very good paying jobs once they finish and are able to get out into the market, but a lot of those students don’t have the funds to try to go to college, so this really helps them out a good bit,” he said.

Though job placement from Pierpont’s petroleum technology and applied process technologies programs has suffered some from the industry’s downturn over the last few years, Mills said the school’s graduates have continued to see success.

“We’ve had companies come to us, and we’re at a point, almost, where I can’t fill all of the internships that we’ll have for the coming summer because there’s been an uptick in the industry,” he said. “We’d love to have more students, of course, trying to help with that need.”

To help recruit more students to the school’s various energy programs, Pierpont staff speaks to current high school students throughout their 13 county footprint.

“Our Student Services Center has recruitment, and we go out to all of the counties when they have their college days and things like that,” Mills said. “We’re very active in those types of programs, and we do try to recruit from those kinds of things.”

Though some students in the state’s rural areas don’t see themselves as “stereotypical college students,” Mills said many of them find their calling in technical career paths.

“A lot of our students are very hands-on oriented and so is a lot of our training, so it makes a very, very good fit for the students,” he said.

Mills said curriculum can sometimes change year to year, as Pierpont works closely with many companies in the oil and gas industry to determine what areas students need to be trained in.

“As a matter of fact, we’ve added a couple of new courses because of all the new pipeline and midstream work that’s going on,” he said.

As an instructor of petroleum technology, Mills says he is grateful to Southwestern Energy for providing the scholarships that will have such great impact on the education of his students.

“Without their funding, it’s very difficult for students to try to go (to college), so their funds and their support is very appreciated,” he said.

Tingler is the son of Linda and Bryan Tingler, a 2012 graduate of Weir High School and a Tau Kappa Epsilon member. Upon graduation, Austin looks forward to using his education and hands-on experiences at Pierpont to excel in the oil and gas industry.

“As an older student, the scholarship I received from Southwestern Energy allows me to attend class full-time while paying my other expenses,” he said. “The financial assistance they provided will help me finish my degree on time and positively impact my career in the oil and gas industry.”

Cline is a graduate of Phillip Barbour High School and upon graduation he aspires to work locally in midstream operations.

“The scholarship I received from Southwestern Energy allows me to attend class full-time at Pierpont’s Advanced Technology Center,” she said.

Lloyd is the son of Mike and Kelly Lloyd and Charlie and Kandi Midcap. He is a 2016 graduate of Valley High School in Pine Grove and upon graduation, he aspires to work as a Pegasus optimization manager.

“The scholarship I received from Southwestern Energy allows me to attend class full-time and purchase my books without the debt of a student loan for me and my parents,” he said.

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