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Marcellus Initiative draws crowd

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By Patrick Cloonan

Published: Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, 4:26 a.m.

Mechatronics.

The term first was coined four decades ago in Japan.

The Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers and American Society of Mechanical Engineers jointly describe it as “the synergistic integration of mechanical engineering with electronics.”

As described by educators from Community College of Allegheny County, mechatronics also integrates “hydraulics, pneumatics, electronics and computer controls in the manufacture of industrial products and processes.”

Some of those educators came to Auberle in McKeesport Thursday to describe opportunities not seen in three decades since the collapse of the local steel industry, as Marcellus shale is developed.

“We are sitting on top of the world's largest natural gas reserve,” said David Marks, producer services manager for Pennsylvania Gas Marketing LLC.

In turn, he said, there are thousands of jobs to be filled.

“In the next five years, one-third of their people will be pushing retirement age,” Marks told the latest in his “Laugh and Learn” seminars about the gas industry.

“I was amazed,” Auberle CEO John Lydon said after the two-hour program. “It really held their attention.”

The seminar focused on energy and educational programs that can help get a student into any aspect of the energy industry.

“For qualified individuals, these programs are free,” said former Munhall resident Judy Savolskis, a CCAC vice president. “They are not easy, but they are free.”

Education beyond community college also can be free.

“All the majors and many medium-sized companies have tuition reimbursement programs,” Marks said.

Savolskis cited Pennsylvania Economy League findings that state for every direct job in the energy industry, there are 1.53 indirect and induced jobs.

Savolskis was joined by college workforce development executive director Reginald Overton and project coordinator Kip Deleonibus.

“There's a lot of hands-on work,” Deleonibus said. “It is practical hands-on work.”

Overton said skills learned in the Certified Production Technician program can be applied to all sectors of manufacturing.

“You have to be skilled mechanically and willing to work,” Deleonibus said. “These jobs require commitment.”

That commitment starts now, with an emphasis on honing math and reading skills, the educators said. They also stressed a commitment to safety, and to staying away from alcohol and drugs.

“(Marks) realized the importance of what Marcellus shale would mean for this region long before anyone else,” Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald told the gathering. “As the nation looks for energy, we have it under our feet, but it is important that we embrace it and do it right.”

Marks is a member of Fitzgerald's energy and environment vision team, one of a dozen teams put together to find an appropriate role for the county on various issues.

Not everyone at the Auberle session thought Marks made an appropriate presentation.

Holly Keene, a youth development associate for Human Services Center Corp. in Turtle Creek, liked what she heard from the college officials but not what Marks said.

“I think the community college programs are fabulous,” Keene said. “I think it is a shame when corporations come in here and tempt kids with robust salaries without telling them the realities of the industry.”

She said she is “completely opposed” to developing the Marcellus shale and doesn't agree with Marks about how permanent the gas industry may be.

“There is no history yet of any shale wells playing out,” Marks said.

Keene questioned the safety of drilling to water supplies. Marks said 77,000 gas wells have been drilled in Pennsylvania in the past 18 years, with problems to a few dozen water wells because gas wells were not drilled properly.

“We have evidence that people taking shortcuts with their jobs are affecting our water,” Marks said. “If you make mistakes, you are going to get caught.”

Marks said he is working to triple the number of state well inspectors.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

 

 
 


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