The Pennsylvania College of Technology received a $294,689 grant Tuesday from the National Science Foundation.
The award is the first installment in $882,000 in grant funding the foundation expects to give over the next three years to help the college further enhance its Marcellus Shale job training initiatives, according to U.S. Rep. Chris Carney, D-Dimock.
The grant will largely fund an added piece to the college's Penn College NOW duel-enrollment program to train high school students for careers in the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry, according to Dr. Jeannette Carter, director of outreach for K-12.
Penn College NOW is a program to allow students to take college classes while in high school.
The courses are taught at the high school or career and technology center by Penn College-approved high school instructors, according to its website.
Carter said the money will help deliver technician courses, such as electronics, diesel technology, heavy construction equipment and welding, at up to 15 high schools and career and technical centers in 15 counties across the central and northern part of the state.
As a result, students taking the courses could earn up to 15 credits before enrolling at the college.
"It will do a couple of things for the students and the industry," Carter said. "It helps (students) make choices a little earlier and finish college faster, as well as prepares them for the Marcellus Shale gas industry."
The grant will "get students in the educational pathway," so they can get into an occupational area to allow them to really take advantage of gaining employment in the industry, Carter said.
"But it doesn't exclude them from other areas (of work)," she added, as the majors being delivered to participating high schools will not limit students to just gas industry related careers.
"These students will be able to take courses in high school and start college with some credits under their belts," said Larry Michael, the executive director for workforce and economic development at the college. "The program provides educational pathways for high school students to make a smoother transition and have a leg up for careers in development of the Marcellus Shale."
The grant will also help modify courses of the majors, which are already in place at the college, to specifically target the needs of the natural gas industry.
Also, in partnership with the Marcellus Shale Education and Training Center, it will bolster the educational strand of programs for the second annual Marcellus Shale Forum, which will take place Dec. 6 and 7 in Altoona.
Dr. Eric Albert, grant principal investigator, said, with the grant, the ultimate goal is to improve the quality of technician education, and, in this case, technicians for the Marcellus Shale development, which is becoming an ever-increasing opportunity for the local career and labor force.
"It's just so powerful that we're able to bring a major funding stream in to provide a number of opportunities for college and high school students," he added.