Appalachian Basin

Hittin’ the Books, Marcellus-Style

Penn State University announced last week that it will be creating a state-wide energy institute to further training involved with the development of the Marcellus Shale. With campuses across the state, including PSU Wilkes-Barre (Lake Lehman, Luzerne Co.) and Worthington-Scranton (Dunmore, Lackawanna Co.) — both within the EID Northeast Marcellus focus area — this initiative will provide educational opportunities for Pennsylvanians from all parts of the region to expand their knowledge and ultimately grow the local workforce.According to a Pittsburgh Post Gazette article from May 17:

Please see the full article here.

While this is a very exciting initiative, natural gas industry related training is not a new concept in Pennsylvania. Both Lackawanna College (New Milford, Susquehanna Co.) and Pennsylvania College of Technology (a Penn State affiliate, Williamsport), in collaboration with the Penn State Cooperative Extension and the PA CareerLink, already have very successful programs.

Lackawanna College, at its New Milford campus location, has offered a two-year associates degree program in Natural Gas Technology since the fall of 2009. With its location right below the Southern Tier of New York, it has proven to be a valuable resource for individuals looking to further their education and gain important skills for residents of both states. For the Fall 2010 semester, Lackawanna College accepted between 20 and 25 students into the program. According to their website:

Upon completion of such a program, students will have an understanding of the industry, hands-on experience in the field, and connections to potential employers. These are all valuable tools to take to an interview with a company, that when the Lackawanna College Class of 2012 graduates, will have less than five years of operation in Pennsylvania and New York. And in an industry where starting salaries can be $80,000 or more without a college degree, imagine what the potential is for someone who has taken the time to earn an associate’s degree in the field! Courses of study like those at Lackawanna College will help to provide the local communities with better opportunities to be a part of this growing workforce.

Another program of study in our area has been developed by Pennsylvania College of Technology (ShaleNet), the Penn State Cooperative Extension, and the Pennsylvania CareerLink. With it, those wishing to enter the Marcellus workforce or learn more about it can take single courses or a two-week program comprised of various modules that give students the certifications they will need to work for most of the major companies in the industry.

Currently, for the two week Fit 4 Natural Gas program individuals looking to enter the workforce as a roustabout, or general laborer earn several certifications, such as Workeys National Job Readiness, Basic First Aid and CPR, Defensive Driving, Certified Operations Technician, Safeland/Safegulf (industry equivalent of the OSHA 10 hour), Aerial Work Platform, and Rough Terrain Forklift. Along with the certifications, participants receive assistance with developing an industry-friendly resume, complete a full background check and drug test, take the Halliburton physical, and have safety training and seat time on excavators, backhoes, skid steers and front wheel loaders. They are working to add more modules to the roustabout program, as well as adding a few more like CDL and welding, thanks to grant they were awarded.

Other courses being offered that individuals may wish to take separate from the two week course of study are:

Not only do individuals take advantage of these courses, but many companies are as well. Representatives from Allison Cranes and Albert Spray Solutions said Thursday night at the WVIA Williamsport event that they send their employees to the Safeland training before they go onto a site.

Plans are also underway for some more new programs. On February 15 of this year, Senator Casey met with the presidents of several Pennsylvania community colleges, including Luzerne County Community College, and discussed the potential for federal funding for gas industry related training programs.

“Many community colleges across the Commonwealth have done good work to offer new courses and training to help workers secure jobs in the natural gas industry,” said Senator Casey.  “The federal government has provided help to Pennsylvania schools including $4.9 million to Westmoreland County Community College for community-based job training in the natural gas drilling and production industry.  At today’s meeting, we also discussed additional avenues available to provide assistance to Pennsylvania community colleges for natural gas-related job training and I offered my support in helping to secure federal funding.” See the full article here.

Nicole driving a front wheel loader!

If you are interested in learning more about the industry or gaining employment in it, it is definitely worth it to check out these programs. I am actually a graduate of Fit 4 Natural Gas (which you will see the irony of if you have the opportunity to meet me at an event and as you get to know me better). I now have all of the above listed certifications, can go on sites because of my Safeland, and could even run a piece of heavy machinery if someone needed me to! I also have an understanding of different jobs within the industry in all areas of the process from exploration to storage and distribution, and was able to network with different companies.

For those who have worked in any industry for a long period of time, but not with natural gas, or individuals who are looking for their first jobs, Lackawanna College, Pennsylvania College of Technology and some of the community colleges in the state have great programs for you to look into!

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