The federal government has awarded a $5 million grant to train workers in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia for jobs in the Marcellus Shale drilling industry. The Allegheny Conference on Community Development (ACCD) is partnering with Westmoreland County Community College, 4 other community colleges, Workforce Investment Boards and the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association to create a Marcellus training network.
Laura Fisher, ACCD Senior Vice President of Special Projects, says this is one of the last federal stimulus grants awarded by the Department of Labor and "they are very supportive of proposals that will put people into jobs quickly."
41 awards totalling $125 million were made nationwide for community-based job training for high growth industries. The "ShaleNet" proposal received the largest grant.
Fisher says a key factor in winning the grant is that much of the Marcellus drilling is in rural areas where there is higher unemployment and low income levels and that meshes with the goals of the Labor Department in job creation.
Fisher says that 70% of the drilling workforce is not local...many of those workers are from Texas, Oklahoma and Wyoming where there is much more experience in shale drilling. She says that the drilling companies would actually prefer to hire local residents because it would be more cost effective.
Fisher says the potential environmental problems is a concern and she's glad that the "bad actors" in the industry are being "called out" but there is also a high level of environmental responsibility among other companies.
"We feel getting local workforce into these jobs...these people live in these places, they're not going to want to have an environment polluted or damaged by irresponsible corporate behavior."
Westmoreland County Community College will help develop the criteria for training and certification programs. Fisher says some of the training will be at the drill sites and could be completed in several days to a week.
Listen to DUQ's Kevin Gavin's interview with Laura Fisher