ROBINSON — A southwestern Illinois community college plans to offer a petroleum drilling technology degree program this fall that is aimed at preparing graduates for careers in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Illinois signed off on long-awaited rules to govern the high-volume oil and gas drilling process within its borders last year, and Lincoln Trail College President Kathryn Harris said state officials have approved the school’s petition to start offering the associate’s degree.

“Fracking is coming to Illinois soon, and that will mean good jobs. This program will help people get skills they need to find jobs in the field,” Harris said.

She told WTHI-TV that Lincoln Trail College offered oil education programs about 35 years ago but stopped doing so after enough qualified students graduated.

“The idea is that many of the people who are working in the oil fields right now are at retirement age because they were our students 30 years ago and they’re ready to get out, so they need a new work force,” Harris said.

The school said the new degree program will focus on horizontal fracking practices and will prepare students for jobs in planning, development and the operation of oil and natural gas extraction and processing facilities.

Lincoln Trail College is in Robinson in Crawford County about 40 miles south of Terre Haute, Indiana.