Environmental tech puts CWC education to work
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Central Wyoming College
(Riverton, Wyo.) — Darrell Creek put his 16 years of experience working in construction and soil remediation to work in a Central Wyoming College classroom and now has an exciting job as an environmental technician.
Creek enrolled in CWC’s Environment Health and Safety (EHS) and earned an associate’s degree to become an environmental technician.
“I had the experience, but I didn’t have the certification or the understanding,” he said, explaining that when he began taking courses “light bulbs went off in my head.”
The Riverton man was taking a voluntary layoff from a construction company where he was the safety officer when he learned about CWC’s new EHS program that had been developed in coordination with oil and gas industry partners.
With scholarship support, Creek first completed the 30-hour general industry training that resulted in an OSHA card. From there he concentrated on the environmental safety program and took a variety of science classes as well as general education courses.
He was drawn to the environmental tech side of the program as he had been exposed to soil remediation projects on the construction site removing impacted or contaminated soils. The EHS program also has a track for Health and Safety to educate students to be risk managers, health and safety consultants, loss control managers and more.
“I always wanted to be on the other end of the work site. Instead of using everything from the neck down, I wanted to use everything from the neck up,” Creek said. “Without the classes, I wouldn’t understand why I’m doing a lot of the things I’m doing.”
While he had done remediation work in his construction job, he wanted to see and understand how the environmental technician dealt with the problems. “I had the experience. I didn’t have the certification and the understanding.”
Now he understands the structures of soils and how contaminants and water move readily through the soil. With his course work behind him, he has the knowledge and skills to clean up the water and soil.
“Darrell was not an ordinary student,” said EHS environmental tech instructor Jacki Klancher. “He’s a self-directed learner.” She said Creek raised a lot of questions as it applied to his real world experience.
With a great interest in soil and water remediation, Creek was “swept up” by Lowham-Walsh, an engineering and environmental services company in Lander that is a partner with CWC’s EHS program. Klancher said Creek was hired on a contract basis as the company has diversified into environmental services, emphasizing reclamation and remediation.
Creek is now employed with Conestoga-Rovers and Associates, a group of companies providing engineering, environmental consulting, and construction services worldwide.
“There’s a pretty big need in the field,” Creek said, noting that he was not hired into an entry-level position. He is currently working at four locations in the region conducting water remediation projects. “There is a bunch of environmental tech jobs right in our corner.”
When Creek entered CWC’s health and safety program he had no idea there was such a demand for a skilled workforce. He said his new career came quite by chance though he had always wanted to complete the college degree that he had started right out of high school.
Creek only whet his whistle in the sciences and plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering. He’s interested in designing remediation systems rather than running them.