Two-year schools help to fill needs of growing natural gas industry
Jonathan Ressler knew he didn't want to spend the money or the time required to earn a four-year college degree to add to his high school diploma.
He enrolled two years ago at Pittsburgh Technical Institute in North Fayette to study for an associate degree in the school's electronics engineering program. PTI's addition of an oil and gas electronics program in July sweetened the pot, said Ressler, 20, of Alum Bank, Bedford County.
“I really like what I've learned here…I like the hands-on aspect,” said Ressler, who is taking oil and gas classes this semester and working at an internship in gas detection metering at Industrial Scientific Corp.
PTI, which will open a $3.5 million Energy Technology Center in October, is in a growing group of two-year schools partnering with companies to create educational programs that train students to fill jobs in the booming Marcellus Shale industry.
The oil and gas industry has made significant gains in filling entry-level jobs, in part by working with community colleges and technical institutes to shape training programs to fit companies' job needs, but the number of qualified applicants in Pennsylvania for higher-skilled jobs is lacking, said Steve Forde, spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition.
For that reason, many colleges have ramped up their offerings with help from companies. For example, Equipment & Controls Inc. donated a large amount of equipment to PTI for its labor training, Vice President Jim Neville said.
“We're doing everything we can to accelerate their program because we need people... we have not been able to serve our customers as well because we don't have the manpower,” said Neville, who said his company needs instrumentation technicians in process controls for midstream gas.
The number of jobs in Marcellus Shale core industries in Pennsylvania, including gas extraction, drilling oil and gas wells and pipeline transportation, increased 149 percent — from 12,188 to 30,369 jobs — between the fourth quarters of 2009 and 2012, according to the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board.
The average wage in core industries was $83,100, the board said.
One reason that oil and gas programs are offered in community colleges and technical schools more often than in four-year colleges is because two-year schools have the ability to react to market needs more quickly, said Greg DeFeo, PTI's president.
For example, experienced welders are changing from career paths in manufacturing and bridges to jobs in the oil and gas industry, so there are more openings for entry-level welders in all fields, said Jeff Belsky, vice president of strategic initiatives at PTI.
PTI will start a new welding technology program in October.
PTI estimates that 200 new students will enroll in welding technology and oil and gas electronics this year, spokeswoman Linda Allan said.
Community College of Allegheny County has offered a free training program for roustabouts, an entry-level job in the oil and gas industry, through a federal grant, ShaleNet, administered by Westmoreland County Community College, said Reginald Overton, an account executive for CCAC's Center for Professional Development in Oakdale.
The program, which ran until June, included non-credit, technical training in well pad construction, basic rigging and spill prevention.
CCAC also offers certified production technician and land administration programs, he said.
In October, CCAC will offer a welding 101 class at an additional location — the Mon Valley Career & Technical Center in Charleroi — through a partnership with the technical center.
In 2010, Westmoreland County Community College became the fiscal agent for the three-year ShaleNet grant, $4.96 million divided among several institutions, to provide free, four-week training sessions in jobs such as roustabouts and welders' helpers at the college, said Douglas J. Jensen, associate vice president of workforce education and economic development there.
Since 2010, more than 20 short-term certificate programs in advanced manufacturing and energy, including oil and gas, have been added at the college.
“The word that I use is ‘agility.' WCCC is really making sure that it has the agility to respond to industry needs,” Jensen said.
In June 2012, the college added a natural gas technologies certificate. Since then, other programs to train workers that oil and gas businesses need have been added, he said.
New this fall are occupational health and safety and mechatronics — a mix of mechanical, electrical and automation systems education. A petroleum instrumentation and process operations technology certificate will be added in January.
Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins assistant Martin gets new job title
- Polamalu enters training camp as Steelers’ longest tenured player
- Starkey: Pirates, Burnett could work again
- Phone scam from Jamaica reported in Allegheny County
- Police charge women with theft and fraud; one at large
- Four people wounded in North Braddock shooting
- Selig: Pirates’ rebirth a positive step for baseball
- Developer pursues application for Strip District apartments
- Fire forces North Side residents from apartments
- Bacteria found in bread factory not a health hazard, company says
- Pirates notebook: Phillies’ Burnett not demanding trade