This year, an estimated 107,000 people could be employed, either directly or in support companies, by the natural gas industry in the Marcellus Shale region.
In an effort to connect job seekers with potential gas industry employers, the Pennsylvania College of Technology, the Marcellus Shale Education and Training Center, Pennsylvania CareerLink and Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce partnered to conduct the Marcellus Career Expo of North Central PA.
The expo kicked off Friday with an information session at the Community Arts Center. It will continue with a job fair from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at the Pennsylvania College of Technology Field House, 1 College Ave.
Participants at the Marcellus Career Expo of North Central PA sign up for CareerLink Friday morning. The event continues today with a job fair at the Pennsylvania College of Technology Field House.
About 25 companies are expected to attend the job fair, according to Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce executive vice-president Jason Fink.
Several hundred people attended the information session, including job seekers, industry representatives, and career consultants with Pennsylvania CareerLink.
Larry Michael, executive director of workforce and economic development at Penn College, said the Marcellus Shale "has the potential to have the largest impact, economically, this area has ever seen."
Michael added that developing the workforce to fill the employment needs of the gas industry is vital to realizing that economic potential.
Chamber president Vincent Matteo said the job creation potential of the gas industry is too great to pass up.
"In this region, and all of north central Pennsylvania, we have an economic development and job creation potential the magnitude of which this area has never been faced with before," Matteo said. "It is incumbent that we take advantage of it."
"It boils down to job creation. If we as a community allow this opportunity to pass us by, then shame on us," he said.
Danielle Boston, director of public outreach with the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association, presented a graph showing what types of jobs are created by the gas industry.
According to the graph, office workers and general laborers each account for 20 percent of the jobs, while heavy equipment operators and drivers with commercial drivers licenses round out the other top employment opportunities, accounting for 17 percent and 10 percent of the jobs, respectively.
The development of the shale will be done in three phases, Boston said. They are the pre-drilling, drilling and post-drilling phases. Each of those phases require a special group of jobs to complete, ranging from entry-level laborers to professionals with college degrees, she said.
A good candidate for a job in the gas industry should have a good work ethic, be drug- and alcohol-free, be mechanically inclined, be physically fit, enjoy flexible hours and working outdoors and be safety and environmentally conscious, she said.
Thomas Murphy, an educator the Penn State Cooperative Extension at Lycoming County, discussed a workforce needs assessment that was conducted by the Marcellus Shale Education and Training Center, a collaboration developed in 2008 by Penn College and the Cooperative Extension.
The assessment focused on a 14 counties broken down into the central and northern tier regions, Murphy said.
Most of the jobs will be created during the drilling phase of shale development, he said, adding that the drilling phase could go on for 30 to 50 years.
Michael said when people ask him which companies are hiring, he has a hard time answering the question because so many different types of companies and jobs are involved in drilling a gas well.
"There is no one place to get that information," he said. "A lot of companies are involved. It's not like General Motors with one human resources department. That makes it a little difficult. That's why we're doing this today and tomorrow."
Representatives from several companies were on hand to discuss their companies' hiring plans.
Perry Harris, operations manager for Halliburton, said his company is building a plant in Montgomery and hiring 200 to 400 people over the next two-to-three years. Shannon Pope of Cudd Energy, said the company is new to Pennsylvania but expects to create between 150 and 200 jobs.
A panel discussion was held to answer questions from the audience.
The event ended with a group of graduates being presented certificates for completing the FIT 4 Natural Gas program from Rachel Smith, of the Central PA Workforce Development Center, and Jeff Lorson, director of the Marcellus Shale Education and Training Center.
The program, which was offered by Penn College, teaches students basic skills needed to work in the gas industry.