Pennsylvania College of Technology student James Geddy stood in a line "a block-and-half long" to get into the Marcellus Shale job fair Saturday at the college field house.
Geddy was in a long line when the fair opened at 9 a.m., "but it moved pretty quick," he said.
More than two hours later, he had talked to "13 or 15" gas industry companies about employment opportunities. Geddy said he hopes to get a job working with small machinery or as a gas field laborer.
Allis-Chalmers vice president of engineering John Meyers, right, discusses job opportunities with
Rob Scott of Williamsport Saturday at Pennsylvania College of Technology during the Marcellus Career Expo of North Central PA. About 3,000 job seekers attended the event, organizers said.
"I think my prospects are pretty good," he said.
The job expo was the second part of the two-part Marcellus Career Expo of North Central PA, sponsored by Penn College, the Marcellus Shale Education and Training Center, Pennsylvania CareerLink and Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce. An information session, held Friday at the Community Art Center, attracted several hundred people.
Saturday was a different story. According to chamber executive vice president Jason Fink, when the field house doors opened at 9 a.m., a line snaked more than the length of a football field down the sidewalk.
"They were standing in line - hundreds of people," said Dennis Holt, manager of the Sooner Pipe Co. in Montoursville.
Holt said he talked to about 200 people within 2 1/2 hours after the doors opened. Business was so brisk that Larry Michael, Penn College executive director of work force and economic development, spent most of the morning running to a copying machine to print additional applications and information sheets for vendors.
Fink estimated about 3,000 people, eager to speak to any or all of the 25 companies represented at the expo, walked through the field house doors during the course of the event.
One of them was city resident Lee Swartz Jr., who said he attended the expo to find a steadier job closer to home. A union iron worker, Swartz said work has been sparse. When it is available, it's in New York City and other distant locales, he said.
Swartz said he talked to eight companies. Many of them already had run out of applications and were directing prospective job seekers to apply via the company Web site.
"I'm willing to do anything," Swartz said. "I'll swing a pick 14 hours a day if they want."
Barry Lewis, who lives along Pine Creek, said he has seen a lot of drilling activity near his home. Lewis said he hopes to land a job as an equipment operator.
"There's going to be a lot of work," he said.
Rich Cummings of Muncy said he showed up early for the event, but upon seeing the long line at the door, decided to come back later.
Cummings said he has a background in education, but those types of jobs are scarce in this area. Instead, he is looking for an entry-level position in the gas industry that he can build on for a career.
City resident Scott Miller said he was looking for a job in inspection, testing, monitoring and quality control. Miller called his prospects "slim, but hopeful."
"I'm looking for such a narrow kind of thing," he said.
Jade Weaver of Howard said he is well-prepared for a job in the gas industry. Weaver said he has a bachelor's degree in construction management from Penn College. Weaver said he is confident he can advance quickly with any company that hires him.
Dale Hornberger and Gerald Sander, recent graduates of the FIT 4 Gas introductory program offered by Penn College, said they talked to several companies, one of which told them not to leave the expo until they had filled out an application.
"I would definitely recommend (the program) to anyone interested in working in the gas industry," Sander said, adding, "I'm kind of excited. I need a job."
Jeff Lorson, director of the Marcellus Shale Education and Training Center, said he was impressed with the number of people who turned out for the event, as well as the qualifications of many of the job seekers.
"You've got a broad spectrum of the work force here today," Lorson said, adding that feedback from company representatives "is positive both in turnout and what they are seeing in talent."
"It's been amazing. We are so excited for the turnout today," said Jess Bilger, site administrator at the Lycoming County CareerLink. "We've had a lot of people with different backgrounds and different experiences."
"It's overwhelming. We can barely take a breather," said John Ryan, regional manager of McTish, Kunkel and Associates. Ryan was manning his company display with company environmental engineering manager Charles W. "Chip" Amer III.
"This place has been crazy - non-stop," Amer said. "It's a lull here if it's not 10 people deep."
Ryan said an impressive number of job seekers met the qualifications to work at his firm.
"Fortunately, we encountered more qualified people than we expected, so we're pleased we decided to participate in this," he said.
"The turnout has been impressive," Ryan said. "I've seen people here from all over the state and New York."
"There's been a wide range of talent as far as people looking for jobs," Amer said. "It's a great event in getting people exposed to the industry in this part of the state."
Holt said he was impressed at how well-prepared many job seekers were.
"Most of them had resumes with them," he said. "They came well-prepared."
Elaine Zeller came more prepared than most. Not only did Zeller bring her resume and a list of qualifications she was more than happy to recite, she also carried a hand-lettered sign spelling out her qualifications.
According to Fink, a post-event survey of companies on hand at the expo showed they had been looking to fill more than 400 positions. As the industry develops, those and other companies will need more workers, he said. Some companies suggested having multiple job fairs, he said.
"This should be an awakening for the local people to understand that the industry is here," Fink said. "Here are 25 companies looking to hire not just a handful of jobs, but hundreds of jobs."