Appalachian Basin

Ohio Laborers Train Ohioans For The Natural Gas Industry

When most people think about the construction industry for natural gas related work images of pipe welders, machine operators, and truck drivers come to mind. One of the most important pieces on a shale gas construction job site who gets overlooked is the general construction craft laborer. The Ohio Laborers District Council, affiliated with the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA), represents a large share of these skilled laborers with over 17,000 members in Ohio. LIUNA is committed to training its members to be the most knowledgeable, highly qualified, and most safety driven workforce in the new and burgeoning shale gas industry.

Laborers’ work craft covers four main areas of shale related construction: processing facilities, pipelines, road work, and well pad construction. The skills for these jobs are taught at the 56,000 square foot Drexel J. Thrash Training Center located 12 miles east of Mt. Vernon in Howard, Ohio.

With the anticipated surge in new pipelines set to be built the Ohio Laborers Training Center is now offering to its membership year round training in pipeline related skills. This one week course covers a variety of pipeline essentials such as sandblasting, properly applying different epoxy coatings, checking pipe coatings for variations (known as ‘jeeping’), handling skids, and CAD welding just to name a few skills taught. Trainees get real world simulated training with ‘working laboratories’ where students can actually put into practice what they learned in the classroom. Class members must demonstrate proficiency in using skids to build pipe cribs, building fence gaps, sandblasting pipe coating, and applying as well as testing the various different pipe coatings. This class also offers trainees the opportunity to take Veriforce Operator Qualification testing in eleven different tasks often seen on gas pipeline projects.

ABOVE: A class is learning how to run a Jeep. An instrument which detects variations in a pipe’s coating.

In addition to the practical aspects of learning how to lay pipe in the ground there is also the safety aspect. The Ohio Laborers Training Center offers an eight hour course designed to meet the United States Department of Transportation’s Operator Qualification rule for all laborers working on gas and liquefied petroleum lines. These study materials and tests for this course are from the Midwest Energy Association and trainees are required to learn twelve tasks and then pass a test demonstrating proficiency in the aforesaid tasks.

While the one week gas pipeline class is taught exclusively at the Drexel Thrash site, one of the best parts about the Ohio Laborers’ Union training programs is they can be taught on-demand. Our training instructors can travel to all twenty plus local union halls scattered throughout the state to offer many skill and safety classes associated with gas pipeline and shale industry work. This makes getting trained construction craft laborers on the job site no problem at all. If the energy industry needs more workers on the ground for a faster completion date, increased workload, or whatever cause our mobility is our strength in ensuring the right people are sent out to work in the field on call all the time.

With increased workloads for our signatory contractors does come the possibility of needing more people than perhaps a union hall has at any given time. This is where our Ohio Laborers’ Apprenticeship Department steps in. They actively recruit and reach out to interested parties at high schools, colleges, contractor associations, and any other organization who might have viable and interested candidates. Those who are interested in becoming a union craft laborer are then evaluated and selected for membership. Applicants selected will enter into the apprenticeship agreement where they will begin a path of 4,000 hours on the job training and 144 hours per year on related classroom training en route to becoming a fully fledged journeyman laborer. Suffice to say with all the infrastructure slated for Utica Shale development this will be a major component in ensuring we staff and train a new generation of workers for the huge influx of construction work coming.

All of this in turn makes for professionally built processing facilities, pipelines go in the ground more efficiently, and it makes roads well suited for the heavy truck traffic taking place around well sites. At the end of the day energy producers can rest assured knowing they are getting a superior product from a proficiently trained safety oriented workforce for the projects they bid out and award to contractors signatory with the Ohio Laborers District Council.

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