Utica Shale development is creating a flurry of activity in the Mahoning Valley. Whether it’s the Vallourec Star plant, construction of the Hickory Bend cryogenic facility, or the laying of pipeline, shale development has been a boon for local jobs. Thanks to increased workloads, the local trades are opening their books for their apprentice programs to help meet current and future demand.
In a recent Youngstown Vindicator article, Jim Burgham, business manager at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 64 in Youngstown, stated:
“We’re meeting demand. The problem is when you look ahead…Applications for the apprenticeship programs have been going down for years, and lately it’s been a noticeable decrease from years past.”
Local labor unions across the board in Mahoning Valley are accepting apprenticeships. The Western Reserve Building & Construction Trades Council, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 64 and the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 396 are all searching for new workers to handle their future workloads.
According to Butch Taylor, “four years ago the union was struggling with 40 percent employment. That’s changed to 100 percent, and the union has had to increase the size of its apprenticeship classes.”
Projects stemming from shale development are keeping union and non-union Ohio workers busy throughout the valley, and there is no anticipation of this work slowing down anytime soon.
The NiSource and Hilcorp Energy’s natural gas Hickory Bend project recently announced the construction of a $60 million pipeline to move natural gas liquids (NGLs) from their $300 million cryogenic natural gas processing plant in Springfield Township in southern Mahoning County.
This new project will create even more work for local workers. Meanwhile, Local 125 of the Laborers International Union and other locals are currently busy working on an 18.5 mile pipeline to the cryogenic plant from Petersburg to Leetonia in Columbiana County. That project alone could employ 270 people.
With this new $60 million NGL pipeline, Hickory Bend will create more jobs and revenue for the Mahoning Valley. As Rocco “Rocky” DiGennaro, business agent for Local 125 of the Laborers International Union, reports: “If we build lines into the plant, we also have to build them out.”
These new opportunities have been a shot in the arm for Local 125. The oil and gas industry now represents 60 percent of Local 125’s business, a phenomenon that’s indicative of the broader employment picture shale development has delivered to Ohio.
With all of this new activity happening in the Valley, guidance counselors need to recognize the oil and gas industry as a potential employer for students who may not have the money or interest in going to college. The industry is already helping these individuals obtain good paying jobs to provide for their families, a welcome development in a state still rising out of the recent recession.