Bill Sniffin: Creating Jobs By Involving All 30,000 Wyoming College Students

UW President Ed Seidel said, “We realized we could have more success with 30,000 college students as a working number than just the 12,000 students at the University of Wyoming.”

Bill Sniffin

November 15, 20235 min read

It was a packed house Tuesday for the 40th annual Wyoming Business Alliance meeting in Laramie.
It was a packed house Tuesday for the 40th annual Wyoming Business Alliance meeting in Laramie. (Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily)

“We realized we could have more success with 30,000 college students as a working number than just the 12,000 students at the University of Wyoming,” said UW President Ed Seidel.

He was explaining the biggest advantage of UW working with the eight community colleges in the state when it comes to doing a better at creating new jobs and educational opportunities in Wyoming.

Seidel was one of the speakers on a panel at the annual meeting of the Wyoming Business Alliance, held Tuesday at the Rochelle Center in Laramie.

President Dr. Kim Dale of Western Wyoming College in Rock Springs echoed the same theme as she talked about its work with industries in Southwestern Wyoming. 

Program To Train Linemen

One example, she said, was a program to train linemen, those folks who climb the poles and install electric lines.

Wyoming is a national leader when it comes to the number of miles of new electric power lines that stretch from the Cowboy State outward — all the way to California, in many instances.

She said that through an organization called the Southwest Manufacturing Partnership (which was formed in 2018), it came to the school’s attention that there was a looming shortage of people to do these jobs. And it seemed like common sense would dictate that hiring local people and training them for these jobs would mean they would stay on the job longer compared to hiring someone from outside Wyoming and bringing them here.

She talked about the difficulties of such work in high Wyoming winds as a detriment to these companies hiring outside people to come here. The program would train people right here for those jobs.

The president of Eastern Wyoming College talked about a new program at his Torrington school that involves cultural tourism.

 “We have many cultural sites in eastern Wyoming that attract tourists who want to experience first-hand what it is like to working a dig,” said Dr. Jeffry Hawes.

Hawes touted a program called the Wyoming Innovation Partnership, which has helped his school develop two other programs in precision agriculture and medical technology.

Also on the panel was Lance Porter, CEO of Banner Health at Wyoming Medical Center in Casper. Porter touted working with Wyoming schools on recruiting nurses.

He said not long ago, the hospital had 100 traveling nurses, but have been able to get it down to 30. It has hired 140 new nurses this year.

He works with all the Wyoming colleges on finding nurses and said he believes hiring local nurses is a much better plan than importing them nurses from out of state.

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Panel On Moving Forward

The problems of growing your company and also hiring good employees was the topic of a panel discussion held Tuesday in Laramie.

Sonja Merryman, who works with Neiman Enterprises (a large timber operation from Hulett), said she has three answers to the question of hiring good people: “Housing, housing and housing.”

That was echoed by other members of the panel.

Brian Woody of Union Wireless on Mountain View said his grandfather founded the telephone company in 1914.

“That model worked great for 50 years,” he said. “Then, the next model worked great for 20 years. The next version worked great for 10 years. Now, in a matter of years, everything changes.”

He was referring to how fast business is changing these days and the challenges companies face in getting ready for change.

A keynote speaker at the annual Wyoming Business Alliance gathering was Gen. Christian Keller of the U. S Army War College.

He warned of something he called a “gray rhinoceros.” He said we all know about black swan events where something totally unexpected suddenly appears and you have to deal with it. He said folks now talk about the “gray swan,” which means you sense a change is coming but you do not know where or when.

His buzz words for the latest big business challenge is what he called the “gray rhinoceros,” which is a big change that you know is coming but just do not know when it is going to get here.

“You have to get ready for it if you are going to survive,” he said.

He defined a black swan event like an asteroid hitting Earth — totally unexpected. He said a gray swan is like a pandemic: “Everybody knew it was going to happen just not where or when.”

His biggest emphasis was on what he called the “gray rhinoceros.” This is when a business knows a big change is coming and is trying to figure out how to handle it. And this change will probably be profound and come fast.

“That is the challenge of our times,” he said.

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Bill Sniffin

Wyoming Life Columnist

Columnist, author, and journalist Bill Sniffin writes about Wyoming life on Cowboy State Daily -- the state's most-read news publication.