PLRM Sees No Difficulty in Placing Grads; WSC program seeks to address shortage of ‘landmen’
Aug. 18, 2011 (by Laura Anderson, "Gunnison Country Times") -- One of Western State College of Colorado's (WSC) newest programs of study, Professional Land and Resource Management (PLRM), is also one of its most successful at placing graduates in their chosen field.
Despite difficulties among many students in finding a job upon graduating, given the current economic climate, PLRM boasts job-placement of 100 percent for those graduates who decide to enter the industry.
The PLRM program, established in January 2008, is housed in Western’s business department. It spans a wide variety of subjects, from business basics like accounting, to law and property management, to geology.
Edwin Grauke, Moncrief chair and director of the PLRM program, works to provide students with the vast knowledge they need to enter into the field of natural resource extraction.
“The program enables students to get out into an industry that might have a significant role to play in some aspect of the energy development spectrum,” said Grauke.
The curriculum for the program was designed by a dozen Western business and geology alumni who saw a need in the energy development industry for trained professionals with a diverse background in geography and law surrounding mineral rights and extraction. These individuals, with multi-faceted skills, are traditionally known as “landmen.”
During the mid-1980s, oil prices dropped to below $10 per barrel, forcing oil companies to tighten their belts and hire fewer employees.
This “contraction,” as Grauke put it, which lasted from the 1980s until the mid-2000s, caused a generational gap in landmen.
According to Tracey Koehler, director of public relations and communications at Western, this is causing a change in the industry.
“There are a huge number of jobs that will be opening up in the next five to 10 years as the baby-boomers retire,” said Koehler.
This fact is reflected by the high level of success for graduates from Western’s PLRM program who choose to enter into the industry. This is partly because of the way the program was designed.
“Our program is in demand because it is one of the few to offer a comprehensive curriculum certified by professionals in the industry,” said Koehler.
Students can enroll in the PLRM program as undergraduates in Business Administration, or can enroll in the program post-graduate for two semesters.
“We offer core and nucleus business courses, then we build land management skills,” said Grauke. “It’s a lot of law because professionals in the industry want new hires to have a broad concept of how regulations work in the United States.”
Grauke described the uniqueness of America’s legal system in regards to property and mineral ownership.
“It’s one of the only systems that allows individuals to own minerals underlying their land,” said Grauke.
This means students must be familiar with legislation regulating both public, whether state or federal, and private mineral leasing.
“It’s important that students recognize the distinction between dealing with individual land owners to have the right to explore mineral and energy reserves and the distinction between dealing with the government to follow that same right,” said Grauke.
Grauke and his students see that natural resource extraction and the energy industry will be leading fields in America’s future.
“No other industry in America today has the capabilities to rescue our economy. There is a tangible product associated with everything we do,” said Grauke. “We need a lot more people well-trained to do environmental work if we’re ever going to accomplish the goal of energy independence.”
Students in Western’s PLRM program are trained in just a few short years to gain a working knowledge of the natural resource extraction industry, an education that Grauke said took him the better part of a decade to understand.
“This is a phenomenal opportunity to ride the wave, as the industry will continue to move forward,” Grauke said.