Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Building Shale Gas Workforce In PA

The Marcellus Shale story of the day is Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl killing the referendum on banning drilling in Pittsburgh. That's a relief. I was beginning to worry about the backlash from the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC):

If Pittsburgh City Council doesn't want Marcellus shale gas companies drilling in the city, industry officials said they could take their non-drilling business elsewhere.

City Council plans to decide Tuesday whether to ban the drilling. The industry could move meetings such as recent conferences to the suburbs or friendlier towns, said Kathryn Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry trade group based at Southpointe in Washington County.

"The city is doing its best in its portrayal of this industry to say, 'We don't want hotel and meeting spaces to be filled with this industry,' " Klaber said. "And my members are saying, 'Why would we go Downtown?' "

One of the "associate members" of the MSC is the Gas Technology Institute (GTI). A few days before Mayor Luke spared Pittsburgh from industry scorn, I read about GTI opening an office in the region. The location? Bridgeville. Take that, City Council!

That bit of snark out of the way, GTI has an interesting Google trail with regards to Pittsburgh. It is already a partner in workforce development:

One of the challenges for workforce development agencies in the region is training people to fill production positions, jobs known as "roustabouts" -- those who prepare sites for drilling, setting up and operating the oil rigs and dismantling them, said Partrick Gerity, vice president of continuing education at the Westmoreland County Community College in Youngwood.

The school has joined with the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport and the Gas Technology Institute of Des Plaines, Ill., in developing a four-week program to train workers to fill those jobs, Gerity said.

"About 70 percent of the workers on the rigs are from out of state. We want to train people for those jobs and for maintaining the wells," and have operators hire 70 percent of the work force from the region, Gerity said.

That's from last summer. Reaching that goal will take some time. At least, one would think so. Wrong:

“There’s a lot of things that impact how fast this goes, but the opportunity and the amount of gas that’s coming up in the high performing wells … it’s jobs for several generations,” said Tracy Brundage, Penn College’s managing director for work force development and continuing education. ...

... In years past, most Marcellus well workers were from out of state, but that’s changed within the past year, Brundage said.

“A lot of companies that we’re meeting with now are saying most of the workers are Pennsylvania residents,” she said.

That's from March of 2011. Remarkable. To be serious for a sentence or two, I think GTI locating an office in Allegheny County is good news. Pittsburgh is emerging as a global energy capital.

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