Grant to Fund Gas Training, Education

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Fifteen million dollars can go a long way.

In Lycoming County, the money will be used to help train and educate people who intend to get jobs in the natural gas industry.

The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded nearly $15 million to Penn College's training program for the Marcellus Shale gas industry.

The program is called ShaleNET and it helps train men and women for everything from the entry-level jobs to the gas jobs that require a degree.

Class is in session for four men in Penn College's roustabout course at the training center south of Williamsport.

They are looking for work and chose Penn College's ShaleNET program to get the training they need.

"I came out here to get a career, a daily process of long, long hours which I know would take care of my family," said Robert Lucas of Texas.

Lucas came all the way from Texas to get in on the gas industry's ground floor.

Thanks to a roughly $15 million grant for the ShaleNET program, Penn College officials said it can become the standard for industry training not just in Pennsylvania or the Marcellus Shale, but nationwide.

"The new ShaleNET U.S. grant will add to that credit certificates and credit associate degrees so we have a career path of credentials," said Assistant V.P. for Workforce Development at Penn College of Technology Larry Michael.

All the equipment at Penn College's new Energy Training and Education Center near Montgomery was donated by companies in the natural gas industry. With this federal grant, Penn College will be able to buy new advanced technology like a simulated drill rig.

"We're bringing a little classroom training and things like that. A little bit of hands on, the moneys from this new grant looks like there will be lots more hands on," said ShaleNET instructor Robert Watkins.

ShaleNET instructors said the gas industry is in need of trained employees and ShaleNET U.S. will offer everything from basic training to associate's and bachelor's degrees.

And like Robert Lucas, officials said the program aims to help people who are unemployed, underemployed or veterans.

"It means huge industry growth, possible permanent careers for all of us here," said Lucas.

Penn College is partnering with companies in the gas industry on ShaleNET which means those potential workers will get the same training and in some cases more advanced training.