Pennsylvania College of Technology and its partners in a consortium called ShaleNET U.S., a Marcellus Shale workforce training program started in 2010, received a $14.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor Wednesday.
Penn College will act as the physical agent on behalf of the other institutions in the consortium.
Entering the last year of its original three-year grant, ShaleNET began as a program to help recruit and train workers for the natural gas-drilling industry.
"It's a huge step forward for training for the natural gas industry," said Tracy Brundage, assistant vice president of workforce and economic development at Penn College.
The grant will help the consortium create what Brundage called, "stackable credits." She explained that the program started by only offering non-credited classes, but now it is working on creating other forms of training for its participants.
"What this grant does is gives us flexibility," she said.
ShaleNET is working on introducing certificate, associate and bachelor programs
David Pistner, director of energy initiatives at Penn College and director of the eastern hub of ShaleNET, explained it would allow the consortium to "marry the credit and non-credit" programs.
Giving students experience with the industry's "cutting-edge technology" is another way the grant money will be used, according to Brundage.
Pistner said he believed the work the group has done with the initial grant and the success seen from it is what made the new grant happen.
"We've just had tremendous success," he said. "It's grown just from the recognition of industry."
Brundage noted the reputation the training has made among those in the industry, as well.
"It's amazing the buzz word: ShaleNET," she said. "There are a lot of people that are aware of what we're doing."
As part of a consortium, each institution made a budget when it applied for the grant to outline what it needed funds for and how they would be used. Pistner said those budgets determine the amount of money each one receives.
"Distribution will be in alignment with what they submitted as their budget," he said.
Pistner said the program has given the area and its participants hope for the future, especially for veterans who are looking for work.
"It's given them the hope that they're going to be able to land on their feet and gain employment," he said. "... It really has offered the region hope."