By Joe Yoder, Penn State
WILLIAMSPORT — Pennsylvania College of Technology has been awarded nearly $15 million through a federal grant to lead ShaleNET U.S., a consortium initiative that seeks to develop and implement standardized, “stackable” certificate and associate-degree programs serving high-demand occupational categories in the oil and natural gas and associated supply-chain industries.
In addition to Penn College, a special mission affiliate of The Pennsylvania State University in Williamsport, the ShaleNET U.S. consortium members are: Westmoreland County Community College, Youngwood; Stark State College, North Canton, Ohio; and Navarro College, Corsicana, Tex.
The $14,961,027 provided for ShaleNET U.S. is among $500 million in grant funds awarded to community colleges and universities nationwide for the development and expansion of innovative training programs. The grants, announced by Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis, are part of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training initiative, which promotes skills development and employment opportunities in a variety of career fields.
“This grant will allow Penn College and our partner consortium members to continue their excellent progress in serving the oil and natural gas industry,” said Penn College President Davie Jane Gilmour. “With the rapid expansion of workforce needs for this industry, there are continuing challenges for education providers to stay current with the technologies and infrastructure to provide the best training and education possible. This grant award is significant in helping us provide top-quality workforce-development services to our students and the industry.”
Daniel J. Obara, president of Westmoreland County Community College, said: “WCCC is most gratified to receive this U.S. Department of Labor grant and continue our partnership with Pennsylvania College of Technology in developing curriculum and providing training for the Marcellus Shale industry. This grant will enable WCCC and all of the partner colleges to significantly build capacity for highly skilled workers for the oil and natural gas industry.”
The Penn College consortium application, ShaleNET U.S.: Building Capacity and Career Pathways for the Oil and Gas Industry, calls for incorporation of four primary operational sectors of oil and natural gas production and consumption: upstream, midstream, downstream and instrumentation/electronics.
A standardized set of curricula will be implemented across the four consortium institutions to address basic skill requirements. An innovative strategy integrating new online curriculum into a blended instructional environment will be used to address advanced skill requirements.
To achieve the advanced-skills training goal, the project team will design, test and deploy online software to digitally control specific pieces of common industry equipment in a simulation environment for targeted occupations. Curriculum and training will be standardized and developed with industry partners using cloud-based technologies that will allow the four ShaleNET U.S. consortium hubs to train students across a wide geographic area encompassing the primary shale gas plays in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas and West Virginia, with specific outreach activities planned for North Dakota and Montana.
Employer and economic-development partners include Chevron, Shell, Anadarko Petroleum Corp., Chesapeake Energy, XTO, Encana, the Allegheny Conference on Economic Development, the Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association, the Ohio Shale Coalition, and other employer partners and associated stakeholder organizations, including Workforce Investment Boards, One-Stop Career Centers, and economic-development organizations.
The primary project goal is the placement of local residents in successful careers in the natural gas industry. The public workforce system, employers and case managers will work together to provide assessment, career counseling and placement services.
The ShaleNET U.S. initiative will build upon prior Department of Labor-funded education and training programs — Community Based Job Training Grants and Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (Round 1) — to create a flexible, multistate model that addresses current oil and natural gas industry skill needs.
Multiple training and educational options will be provided to regions most impacted by unconventional oil and natural gas exploration, and the initiative will place individuals in high-priority occupations as identified through skill-panel discussions and analyses undertaken in concert with employer partners.
Targeted populations include unemployed and dislocated workers, including TAA-eligible individuals negatively impacted by plant closings and layoffs. Veterans will receive priority service from ShaleNET’s established relationships with the National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserves.
It’s anticipated that outreach and referrals from all targeted populations, including the underemployed, will be made from the federal One-Stop system to the training programs developed through the grant.
For additional information, call Workforce Development & Continuing Education at Penn College at 570-327-4775 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.