Monday, August 16, 2010

Burgh Energy Report: Jobs

I've scaled back my posting on the Greater Pittsburgh energy economy with Chris Briem doing a great job and now the Pittsburgh Business Times filling the blogger void and covering the beat. I'm not reading too much that you can't find in the above two sources. Take a bite of EnergyBurrito if you are hungry for more information (also click through the blog roll).

I'm still trying to get on top of energy talent migration patterns. Separating the hype from the home runs is difficult. PBT has a recent story about Western PA jobs:

Echoing criticism of the natural gas industry that it brings in workers from other states, such as Texas and Oklahoma, Weber also added that about 85 percent of its new hires have come from Pennsylvania.

Local hiring has been an issue for many natural gas drilling and service firms, because the equipment used in deep shale horizontal drilling isn’t native to the traditional Pennsylvania extraction industry.

“It has really been a challenge to find qualified local personnel or to get qualified personnel to move to the area,” said Jeremy Parker, general manager of the Oakdale regional office of Parker Energy Services, an Arkansas-based oil and gas well service company.

The company is looking for job applicants with commercial driver’s licenses and also for wireline operators.

When asked what will be different at the company in a year’s time, Parker said: “We will have a bunch of Southern guys accustomed to the winters (Pennsylvania) has to offer!”

How much excess labor capacity does the natural gas industry maintain? Here in Colorado, I see a scramble for workers and deep concern about talent shortages. I've mentioned the following before; the community college where I taught had a great relationship with Halliburton. The company always seemed to be hiring. With that in mind, an Allegheny Conference press release caught my eye:

To make the largest workforce impact, Marcellus ShaleNET’s geographic scope includes Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. This comprises 69 counties and 16 workforce investment boards. (New York will be a participant in Marcellus ShaleNET if and when drilling begins in the state.) The consortium includes five community colleges throughout the footprint: Westmoreland County Community College (Pennsylvania), Pennsylvania College of Technology, West Virginia Northern Community College, Eastern Gateway Community College (Ohio), and Broome Community College (New York). Westmoreland County Community College in the west and the Pennsylvania College of Technology in the east will act as hubs to disseminate information and ensure uniform actions.

What really jumped out at me is the caveat about New York State. For better or for worse, Pennsylvania is way out front in this area's "Shaleapalooza". For some perspective on the worse, see The Pittsburgh Comet. Even some drilling restrictions are still more attractive to shale gas drilling companies than the current situation in New York. Environmental activists might keep that bit of political geography in mind.

By way of adding a firsthand anecdote, I spent one week of my two week blogging hiatus in the Laurel Highlands (my father-in-law has a cottage there). Marcellus Shale was a common topic and the effects on the local psyche are obvious. I didn't notice any drilling or drill traffic. The biggest energy impact I could see comes from the giant windmills in Somerset County. Most of the talk is about land acquisition and who might be your new neighbor in the coming months. There is a lot of unease and uncertainty. Does anyone really know where all this is heading?

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