Western Pennsylvania Community College at the forefront of providing human resources to the Marcellus Shale Industry
It started with a week-long trip to Texas and a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.
It will hopefully end with a new Royal Dutch Shell Plc. natural gas refinery in Monaca that will be surrounded by a sea of automobiles driven by the plant’s well-trained employees.
This is the hope of a trio of educators from Community College of Beaver County in Monaca who last fall, visited five community colleges in the Houston, Texas-area. The schools were targeted because all offer a curriculum that features courses and certification in Process Technology – the touchstone of all industries that produce consumer goods from raw materials.
If the Shell $2.5 billion refinery becomes a reality – as hoped by many in Beaver County – it would convert ethane from Marcellus Shale into chemicals, such as ethylene, which can be used to make tires, plastics and antifreeze. This process could eventually employ more than 10,000 people. Shell Chemicals, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, has filed for an air quality permit from the state, signed third-party construction contracts, and has contracted for ethane shipments to its 300-acre site.
“It is our goal to make the program not just for one industry,” said John Goberish, dean of Workforce and Continuing Education at CCBC. Process Technology can be used in a myriad of industries including petro-chemicals, pharmaceuticals, power generation, food processing, composites, paper and pulp, waste water management, and steel to some degree.
Goberish, who was part of the CCBC delegation that traveled to Texas, said based on the feedback the college has received from manufacturing companies, the workforce of skilled process technicians is getting older. This presents an outstanding opportunity for younger, skilled workers, as well as those who are looking to switch careers. The median expected annual salary of a process technician in the United States as of June 2014 is $60,412, according to salary.com. For the Pittsburgh area, that salary would be $58,104 and in the Youngstown, Ohio area, $57,210, according to the web site.
The grant from the National Science Foundation, an independent government agency that promotes science and engineering through education and research, will allow the college to establish both a certification program and an associate’s degree in Process Technology.
The curriculum template that Goberish, J.P. Pradeep Kumar, a CCBC chemistry and mathematics instructor, and Hugh Gallagher, its career coach, came back from Texas with mirrors that of the Texas colleges, as well as that of the North America Process Technology Alliance, a Texas City-based organization of Process Technology educators and their business and industry advisors. Courses that CCBC would like to offer include an Introduction to Process Technology; Safety, Health and Environment – Plant Security; Instrumentation I and Instrumentation II; Process Technology I, II and III – equipment, systems and operations, Quality and Troubleshooting.
The college has established a 40-person steering committee to help it proceed with its plans that it hopes to offer statewide. Kumar said a meeting will be held sometime in July to get feedback from industry officials on specific needs that should be addressed through the curriculum “Our goal is to market this sometime this fall and offer it in the spring,” Kumar said. “We want to create an awareness in the community that these kinds of jobs are no longer dirty. They’ve become cleaner and much more sophisticated.”
Bill Goodwin, a site manager for Ferro Corp., a Washington, Pa. company that provides manufacturers with materials such as coatings, specialty plastics, and polymers and sits on CCBC’s steering committee, said there is a big need for trained Process Technicians in Western Pennsylvania.
“It’s extremely important,” said Goodwin, who recently relocated to the area from Texas – where trained Process Technicians are the norm. “It’s demanded by industry, whether it is pharmaceuticals, steel, or chemicals.”
“The college is going about it the right way,” he added. “If they get this up and running, we’ll hire from them.”
While the college is tweaking its Process Technology courses, it has been for several years offering training for people interested in careers associated with Marcellus Shale.
CCBC is part of the ShaleNET program that began in 2010 with a $5 million community-based, job-training grant that was awarded to Westmoreland County Community College in Youngwood by the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration. ShaleNET’s mission is to respond quickly to natural gas industry needs by creating an entry-level jobs training program.
Its’ success is grounded in the numbers. To date, ShaleNET has 20 recognized training providers, including CCBC, in four states that have trained more than 3,000 people, with more than 1,650 employed by the oil and gas industry.
CCBC offers students interested in getting field jobs associated with Marcellus Shale courses in welding, machinery and how to obtain a commercial drivers’ license and waste water management courses. Goberish said about 100 students trained by the college have found jobs in the oil, gas, or related industry.
Troy Nesmith, a Beaver Falls resident, who is taking a machinery course, said he is at the school because he wants to learn more about the oil and gas industry and hopefully get a job in the industry.
“I want to learn everything about it, from the top down,” said Nesmith, who works as a security guard and at a GNC.
Lisbon, Ohio-resident Dave Turley, who is unemployed, said he is taking the class to better his life and find a job.
“I am really liking it,” he said