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Local colleges offer training for oil, gas jobs

April 13, 2012
By Evan Bevins - The Marietta Times ( , The Marietta Times

As the shale wave moves south in Ohio, area educational institutions are gearing up to train people for the jobs it's expected to bring.

Washington State Community College added a geosciences major in the winter quarter, training people in mapping and physical geography. A geotechnical drafting program, in which students can learn how to lay out pipes and other features, is also in the works, said Brenda Kornmiller, dean of business, engineering and industrial technologies at Washington State.

Kornmiller said those studies can be useful in installation of water and sewer lines as well.

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"That major will sustain itself, not just for oil and gas, but for our community in general," she said.

Increased oil and gas interest also prompted the college to move forward sooner with the security academy that had been under consideration. She noted security personnel would be needed at drilling sites, given the technology used and even the possibility of extreme protesters trying to disrupt activities.

"You would definitely want to make sure that you keep things safe, and definitely loss prevention as well," she said.

Fact Box

At a glance

Jobs expected to be supported in Ohio by Utica shale development

2012 - 12,150 ($571,543,463 income).

2013 - 40,606 ($1,994,216,405).

2014 - 65,680 ($3,298,757,195).

(Most are new, but some are existing jobs supported by the new source of demand).

Source: "An Analysis of the Economic Potential for Shale Formations in Ohio," prepared by faculty at Marietta College, The Ohio State University and Cleveland State University and sponsored by the Ohio Shale Coalition.

A non-credit course, Introduction to Oil and Gas Abstractor, is scheduled to start this month. It's designed to teach about researching mineral rights and leases, which dozens of people are doing daily at area courthouses.

"If you were just starting out thinking, 'I want to get into the oil and gas industry,' one place you could start out is as an abstractor," Kornmiller said.

The college has established advisory committees for its geoscience program and the oil and gas industry to get as much feedback as it can about what training companies are seeking.

"We really want to build what our community needs," Kornmiller said.

The Washington County Career Center also has added courses in response to rising demand related to the oil and gas industry.

The first of its revamped heavy equipment classes wrapped up at the end of March, and a commercial driver's license class starts soon. On the horizon is a 100-hour course on oil field basics, dealing with hands-on skills related to compressors, pumps, small engines, basic electricity and safety, said Jim Siegfried, training coordinator for industrial programs with the career center's Adult Technical Training division.

Those, coupled with other classes, will eventually allow the career center to offer a 600-hour program that will be eligible for federal PELL grants, said David Combs, adult technical training director.

Different companies want different things from their workers, he said. Some are looking for specialists, while others are seeking jacks of all trades.

"They want me to be able to drive the truck and also be able to operate the equipment I take out there," Combs said. "Just like any other job, they want you to wear more hats nowadays."

Not as many changes are planned at Marietta College, which has been a leader in the oil and gas industry for decades thanks to its petroleum engineering program. The college is the only institution in the state that offers a petroleum engineering major, said Bob Chase, chairman of the petroleum engineering department.

"We stay on the edge of things," he said. "We keep our curriculum up to date."

Graduates of the program have at least a 98 percent placement rate dating back to about 1990, Chase said.

"The companies that are moving into our state now are the companies that have been recruiting our students already," he said.

The college has seen an increased interest in petroleum engineering and received more than 300 applications to the program this year. The amount of students accepted is limited due to space and staffing, but Chase said they will accept 90 this year, up from 75 a year ago.

The college is also working to hire a seventh petroleum engineering professor and a fifth geologist.

A four-year land management degree, which would prepare students to become landmen, could be offered as soon as next fall, said Tom Perry, director of college relations. A minor in environmental geology is also being considered.

Chase, whose expertise is being sought around the state as interest in shale drilling increases, said he's also advised Washington State and the career center on some of the needs they can meet.



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