Proposed bill promotes training state residents for gas industry

More natural gas industry jobs may be more accessible to Pennsylvanians instead of out-of-state workers, if a bill by U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, is approved.

In a news conference held Monday at Alberts Spray Solutions, 61 Choate Circle, Montoursville, Casey unveiled his Marcellus Shale on the Job Training Act, which would authorize grants to strengthen on-the-job training programs to help ensure natural gas drilling jobs go to Pennsylvanians.

Though Casey couldn’t specify the timeline as it will go at the pace of legislation, or the cost at this point, he emphasized the importance of the Marcellus Shale natural gas play in producing jobs for state residents. This legislation would target northcentral Pennsylvanians, he said.

“Pennsylvania doesn’t wait for the future – Pennsylvania invents the future,” Casey said, and one way is to “take full advantage of natural gas.”

The act, an enhancement of the original Workforce Investment Act passed in the 1990s, would allow grants to go to workforce investment boards. These boards would partner with employers to share natural gas industry training costs, Casey said. The workers would be trained for the exploration, production and transportation of natural gas, he said.

Not only would this benefit workers, but “employers would have a steady stream of skilled workers,” as well, he said.

Casey advocated energy independence, saying the Marcellus Shale natural gas play could create that reality.

“This isn’t just a job-creation opportunity, but also an energy benefit to Pennsylvania and the nation,” he said.

Edward Alberts, president of Ralph S. Alberts Co., Inc., the parent company of Alberts Spray Solutions, said the grants this legislation would provide could be beneficial due to training costs.

“It’s an enormous amount of training” workers must undergo for the natural gas field, Alberts said. Their training largely focuses on safety issues.