Pennsylvania College of Technology and the Penn State Cooperative Extension are joining forces to launch the Marcellus Shale Education and Training Center, which will open in January at Penn College's Center for Business and Workforce Development.
The center's goal will be to provide workforce training to assist in serving the anticipated needs of the natural gas industry while providing the industry and community with educational and information resources, said Thomas Murphy, educator with the Cooperative Extension at Lycoming County.
Because of the escalating interest in natural gas exploration in central Pennyslvania, particularly involving the Marcellus Shale formation, launching the center at the college was a wise decision, Murphy said.
"I think it's appropriate that (the center) would be housed here in Lycoming County because of the interest by energy companies in this region of Pennsylvania," he said.
"This region is definitely a focal point," he said. "Lycoming County is nestled right in the middle of that region where activity is ocuring."
According to Murphy, it is fitting, too, that the Cooperative Extension and Penn College join forces to launch the center.
For the last several years, the extension has been involved in an initiative to educate state residents about the environmental and economic impacts of gas exploration, Murphy said.
It also offers educational resources involving water quality and the environment, forestry and economic and community development.
Pennyslvania College of Technology has the resources in place to provide the workforce training needed to get jobs in the gas exploration industry, he said.
According to Larry L. Michael, executive director of the college's workforce and economic development, the college looked at other areas of the country where natural gas exploration was ocurring and saw workforce needs the college was capable of meeting.
The college offers technology-based programs such as welding, heavy equipment operations, diesel technologies and computer technologies, Michael said.
"These two entities partnering will bring the best of both to the table to provide workforce opportunities," Murphy said. "The industry is going to expand dramatically in the years ahead and there will be a number of technical positions that people will need training on."
As the region has seen the gas industry move from the leasing phase to the drilling phase, there has been an increase in demand for technical welders, truck drivers and people involved in geosciences, Murphy said.
Other jobs have yet to be determined, Murphy said. Extension and college officials plan to meet with industry representatives to discuss what its workforce needs will be not just now, but in the future, he said.
"The college already has that technical expertise but it will be customized to meet the needs of the industry," he said.
"Existing programs will be leveraged and modified to provide these specialized services," Michael said.
Although Williamsport will be the central operations for training, workforce development will take place at Penn State campuses throughout the state, Penn College's Wellsboro campus, and on the high school level, Murphy said.
"It will be pretty broad," he said.
The center will provide a variety of services, including facilities for meetings and events, workforce needs assessments, workforce development and training, product development and testing services and research, according to the college.
"Penn College's existing programs will provide the foundation for faculty, student and equipment resources to serve the industry," college president Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour said. "We are committed to working with the natural gas industry to develop programs designed to specifically support this exciting new indsurty in our region and we anticipate becoming a vital regional resource in providing a well-trained and knowledgeable work force."