Community College of Philadelphia to start a training program for Marcellus Shale jobs

Posted: November 16, 2012

Last year, officials from Pennsylvania's Department of Labor and Industry were talking with representatives of Community College of Philadelphia about emerging areas in the job market. Labor Secretary Julia K. Hearthway said the conversation quickly turned to energy.

State researchers believed the economic benefits of Marcellus Shale natural gas development were going to radiate across the state, Hearthway said. "And we wanted to make sure that people were trained and ready for the opportunities that were coming."

The outgrowth of that conversation is the college's Energy Training Center, whose creation will be announced Thursday by president Stephen M. Curtis. The center will offer career, certificate, and academic programs in the energy field and work with employers on workforce development.

Though the center was inspired by the shale gas boom, its aim is not to train roughnecks to work on drill rigs, said Waverly Coleman, the college's executive director of corporate solutions. Few Philadelphia-area workers are expected to migrate to jobs in the gas fields in Northern and Western Pennsylvania.

Rather, the college aims to prepare students to work for local companies doing Marcellus-related work, such as legal firms, engineering firms, and suppliers.

Workers will be needed for chemical manufacturers producing goods derived from natural gas, which is expected to be shipped by pipeline across Pennsylvania to Delaware River ports.

The center is also looking to serve employers in the energy and utility industries in general, Coleman said. Philadelphia Gas Works, the city-owned utility where about a third of the 1,600 employees are eligible for retirement, is cooperating with the center to develop the skills it needs for its workforce.

The center will expand upon the college's existing programs to prepare workers for the weatherization industry and energy-efficient building retrofits.

"We don't want people to be trained for the sake of training," said Coleman, the assistant dean for business and technology. "We want to them to be trained for jobs that exist in Southeastern Pennsylvania."

The center initially will be a "virtual" institution run out of the college's Center for Business and Industry, but if the market for energy-related jobs picks up as anticipated, it may require its own space.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, the natural gas industry trade group, has chipped in $15,000 for scholarships.

In the semester beginning in January, the center will offer an associate degree in building science to prepare students for a career in the energy conservation industry and for such jobs as energy auditor, renewable energy installer, and computer energy modeler.

The state Labor and Industry Department is supporting the effort with research, Hearthway said, but no additional funding.

The department also selected the college as the pilot site for its Pennsylvania Statewide Career Coach, an online exploratory tool that allows students and job-seekers to shop for openings, compare occupations, and assess whether they possess the skills needed for specific careers.

"It's a very neat tool," said Curtis. "If you're looking for a job, you can look them up and it will show the skills and qualifications that you need, where training is available, salary levels, and also where the jobs are."

The free tool is already operating on the college's website, www.ccp.edu


Contact Andrew Maykuth at 215-854-2947, @Maykuth on Twitter or amaykuth@phillynews.com.

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