Meredith Fahey

The success of ShaleNET – linking more than 2,000 people with Marcellus Shale industry-related jobs – was recently profiled in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in a front page “Sunday Business” story.  As P-G Energy and Business Reporter Erich Schwartzel notes in the article, there is not one unique “student profile.” People come to these trainings from all walks of life and parts of the country hoping to get trained and find potentially high earning employment in the oil and gas sector. The common attribute of those who succeed is that they are hard-working folks, willing to put in long hours in outdoor conditions. Training classes now are available throughout Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, New York and shortly, Texas.

ShaleNET will soon be expanding its reach, both in terms of geography and skills training. Started in 2010 as an entry-level jobs training program supported by a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, last fall ShaleNET was awarded an additional $14.9 million follow on grant. With the maturing of the industry and with the additional money, participants will be able to continue their education and training by earning certificates and two-year degrees that will help them find jobs in the midstream and downstream part of the industry – that is, beyond the drill rigs and in the processing of oil and natural gas.

The original founders of ShaleNET – the Allegheny Conference, Pennsylvania College of Technology and Westmoreland County Community College – partnered with Stark State College in Canton, Ohio, and Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas, for this second round funding, with the hope of scaling ShaleNET to become a national job training and education model.

To learn more, visit and view the video below to learn more about how partnerships are expanding workforce training opportunities in the U.S. under the ShaleNET banner.

Laura Fisher

When workforce demands start growing, the ShaleNET  program gets going with comprehensive recruitment, training and placement and retention services for employers and employees in the natural gas industry.

ShaleNET is a U.S. Department of Labor-funded $4.9 million multi-state workforce program addressing current and future jobs in the burgeoning natural gas industry. Focused initially on the Marcellus Shale natural gas play in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and New York, ShaleNET in September received another DOL grant totaling $14.9 million. This second grant will extend programmatic and geographic reach.

An innovative partnership between educators (primarily in community colleges and technical schools) and the natural gas industry, ShaleNET now will also prepare individuals in places like Texas and North Dakota to successfully fill key shale gas jobs. The program draws on best practices and demonstrates the value of “stackable credentials”  in preparing workers for jobs open now and those anticipated in the future. Stackable credentials can be accumulated over time to build up a person’s qualifications and help him or her to move along a career pathway or up a career ladder to different and potentially higher-paying jobs.

The partnership approach distinguishes the ShaleNET initiative. Through industry and academic partnerships, employers and potential employees are able to benefit from ShaleNET’s one-stop training model. Redundancies are reduced, curriculum is current and standardized and those seeking training don’t have to guess at which training options will provide them with what they need to be successful on the job.

Leaders from industry and academia recently gathered for the fourth annual ShaleNET Workforce Forum. They included representatives from the four schools delivering ShaleNET training:  Navarro Community College, Corsicana, Texas; Pennsylvania College of Technology, Williamsport, Pa.; Stark State College , North Canton, Ohio; and Westmoreland County Community College, Youngwood, Pa.

Also participating in the forum was Jane Oates, U.S. Department of Labor Assistant Secretary of Employment and Training Administration and Allegheny Conference on Community Development CEO Dennis Yablonsky. Both were featured speakers addressing the unique benefits of this partnership and its potential to become a national model for workforce development.

Watch the video below to learn more about ShaleNET’s value to training providers and as a government investment and why Pittsburgh is uniquely poised to advance this type of approach as a successful model.

Phil Cynar

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on Oct. 24 featured the greater Pittsburgh region in the article, “Cheap Natural Gas Gives New Hope to the Rust Belt.” The article and a WSJ mobile video largely focus on our abundant supply of natural gas and the potential – beyond fuel – that this resource has as a feedstock for manufacturing, particularly for the petrochemical industry.

Earlier this year, Shell Chemicals announced that it is considering building an ethane cracker in Beaver County. The proposed plant would have huge economic impact. It would rank as the single largest investment in a generation in the region and would be the creator of potentially thousands of construction jobs, in addition to hundreds of full-time jobs needed to operate the facility.

The wet gas-rich Marcellus Shale concentrated in greater Pittsburgh is the catalyst. Because of this below-ground resource (alongside above-ground resources in human capital, innovation and R&D), Pittsburgh is poised to take the next step toward reviving manufacturing in America.

It’s an exciting time for the country and for greater Pittsburgh, and it’s exciting to have the region and some of its key companies benefiting from natural gas, including Allegheny Technologies, recognized in the Wall Street Journal, which reaches 3.5 million global readers daily.

The word is out – in print, broadcast and in the blogosphere – and it underpins three key messages about greater Pittsburgh and its booming energy economy. Pittsburgh is: advancing America’s energy security with innovation; investing in American manufacturing’s rebirth with its plentiful natural gas; and driving job creation and career opportunities to meet the ever-expanding needs of the energy sector.

You can read the latest “word” with a WSJ subscription (the article is behind a paywall) or you can view the mobile video here, which is available without subscription. It’s a solid summary of the print article, featuring lots of on-location footage in Beaver County and an interview with Jack Manning from the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce.

The Pittsburgh region is poised to see the number of energy-related careers grow significantly by the end of this decade. There will be jobs for engineers and maintenance technicians, welders and salespeople, jobs requiring post-high school training as well as professional degrees. At the same time, according to a workforce analysis conducted on behalf of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and the Energy Alliance of Greater Pittsburgh (EAGP), the opportunity poses significant challenges for workforce development as employers increasingly compete for talent, especially across 14 high-demand, hard-to-fill occupations.

“At a time when our region is already setting all-time records for employment, the ‘help wanted’ sign is out, and it’s likely to stay there for years to come,” said David Porges, chair of the Allegheny Conference Workplace Committee, and chairman, president and CEO of EQT Corporation. “For the energy industry in particular, our challenge is to educate, train and attract enough skilled workers to meet this demand. The good news: we have the tools necessary to make it happen; however, to be successful, we must have business, government and the workforce development system effectively working together towards this common goal.”

The Allegheny Conference and the EAGP released the results of their survey of major energy employers during the quarterly meeting of the Allegheny Conference Regional Investors Council at the Doubletree Hotel in Downtown Pittsburgh. The detailed analysis, conducted by global talent-management consultancy DDI, involved in-depth interviews with 37 employers representing a cross-section of the 10-county region’s seven energy industries, including coal, natural gas, nuclear, solar, wind, power management and intelligent building. The executive summary is available here.  According to the survey, these 37 companies alone expect to have more than 7,000 jobs to fill through 2020, with about 4,200 of the openings due to retirement and attrition and 2,000 in the 14 high-demand occupations. (Read the executive summary here.)

The survey is suggestive but not predictive of the region’s total energy workforce needs by the end of the decade. The goal of the research was not to make statistical inferences about job numbers, but rather to determine what the greatest need will be and what skills will be most in demand to fill the energy workforce pipeline through the end of the decade.

“This report is unusual because we’re hearing directly from the employers about the positions they must fill in the years to come. This information may help to guide dislocated workers contemplating a career change or young people thinking about their future career options. These are the high demand opportunities emerging in our region,” said Allegheny Conference CEO Dennis Yablonsky. “These occupations include machinists, maintenance techs, welders and the people who supervise them, as well as sales professionals and engineers, family-sustaining jobs with good, long-term career prospects. Fortunately we have time to prepare to meet this demand.”

All but one of the 14 most in-demand jobs across the seven energy-related industries will require more than a high school diploma or GED – typically an associate’s degree or technical certification. Several will require a bachelor’s degree or more.

“We’re not predicting the number of jobs that will be available across the entire energy economy, but these results offer some practical, unequivocal conclusions about what we need to do to continue to grow our economy,” said Laura Fisher, senior vice president, Allegheny Conference, who has overseen the project. “It is essential for employers and businesses to begin now to get the word out about the region’s job opportunities and training and educational resources, and to advocate for better alignment of education and workforce policy, programming and funding.

“We have the building blocks to meet the growing demand. Our region is home to 36 colleges and universities, community colleges and career schools, and nonprofit workforce development organizations, including robust building trades apprenticeship programs. The challenge is to properly align educational and training programs so that students and dislocated workers can make well-informed choices about post-secondary education.”

The Allegheny Conference and the Energy Alliance said that parents and guidance counselors have important roles to play to communicate the emerging opportunity in the region and to encourage boys and girls to seek out STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills. It is also important that students develop the critical thinking, communications and other behavioral skills embedded in a well-rounded curriculum. All of these skills are needed to land the most in-demand, high-paying jobs in energy-related and other industries.

“The workplace of the near future – in our country and in the Pittsburgh region – is one in which opportunities are available to anyone with the skills and training to succeed,” Porges said. “We need to make sure that all students are well informed about diverse career opportunities in energy.”

The Allegheny Conference and the EAGP are taking immediate steps to address the region’s workforce opportunity by:

  • Building on the successful ShaleNET workforce development model, a multi-state, comprehensive recruitment, training, placement and retention program for jobs in the gas industry throughout the Marcellus Shale footprint, to target additional high-demand, hard-to-find positions across the energy industries;
  • Increasing public awareness of the breadth of opportunity in the region by enhancing the talent attraction portal and related marketing;
  • Advocating for key structural improvements to the workforce development system in the region and across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; and
  • Extending the analysis to include the entire 32-county, greater Pittsburgh region, which includes portions of Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia;

In fact, a new analysis of the energy sector by the Pennsylvania Economy League of Greater Pittsburgh (an Allegheny Conference affiliate) indicates that the energy sector has an annual $25 billion economic impact – direct and indirect – on the 32-county region, representing 15 percent of its economy. More than 60,000 people are employed in direct energy jobs at 1,700 establishments across the greater region.

The Allegheny Conference on Community Development is the parent organization for three affiliates: the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance (PRA), the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce and the Pennsylvania Economy League of Greater Pittsburgh. These organizations share a strategic vision and work together to market our region for business investment and talent attraction, conduct research and analysis to improve our competitiveness, and advocate on behalf of business climate and quality-of-life improvements. The Regional Investors Council, made up of more than 300 regional employers, provides the leadership, commitment and resources to move our region forward.

The Energy Alliance of Greater Pittsburgh (EAGP) is a coalition of 100 businesses representing all seven of our region’s energy-related industries. Supported by the staff of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and Innovation Works, EAGP advocates for policies that will encourage these industries to flourish here, reaching out worldwide to attract investors and encouraging commercialization of innovations spinning out of our government and university labs.

ShaleNET links industry, workforce investment boards and training providers to ensure local worker placement in six entry-level, family sustaining positions that have been identified as high-priority occupations  by the Pennsylvania Workforce Development, a program of the state’s Department of Labor & Industry. Learn more or register to receive the ShaleNET newsletter at

Ben Kamber

Earlier this month, the R.K. Mellon Foundation awarded the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Energy at the Swanson School of Engineering a $22 million grant to expand energy research and education. This gift, one of the largest ever received by Pitt through a private foundation, will allow the university to broaden its energy materials and grid research and continue to position Pittsburgh as the center of innovation in American energy.

As site of the first commercial oil well and nuclear power plant (amongst many other “energy firsts”), the Pittsburgh region has been home to cutting-edge energy research and development for well over a century. Building upon this legacy, Pittsburgh today is creating solutions for tomorrow’s energy challenges through its ability and willingness to tackle energy innovation through a cross-disciplinary approach.

Our region is recognized internationally for the unique way in which corporate, nonprofit, government, university and foundation communities work together to achieve civic and community benefits. This “Pittsburgh Model” is a competitive advantage that helps drive innovation. The R.K. Mellon Foundation’s grant is just the latest in a long string of interdisciplinary commitment and cooperation to energy innovation.

Dean of Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering Gerald Holder expands upon these points in a recent Pittsburgh Business Times column. In addition to the Center for Energy, Pitt’s world-renowned Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation is working alongside the National Energy Technology Laboratory, and other university and corporate partners to integrate sustainability and energy into one coherent strategy.

Holder writes:

Despite having two separate centers, we fully understand that “sustainability” and “energy” are not wholly separate. They often combine to promote a literal and figurative “synergy,” and often are inextricably linked, providing a new launching point for our region’s economic growth. Companies such as Eaton, Westinghouse and CONSOL, and builders such as Mascaro all are focused on improvements in energy-generating and energy-consuming technology — think smart buildings, smart grids and smart people. As their competitive position strengthens through innovation, they will grow their business and create thousands of high-value jobs in this region.

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Watch Gerald Holder’s recent appearance on Our Region’s Business below to learn more about the work being done at Pitt’s Center for Energy and how R.K. Mellon’s $22 million grant will greatly help expand it.

Amanda Sennert

ShaleNET has announced in its current newsletter that 883 local workers have landed jobs in the natural gas industry since June 2010 as a result of its training and placement efforts.

ShaleNET is a multi-state, comprehensive recruitment, training, placement and retention program for jobs in the gas industry throughout the Marcellus Shale footprint. The program plans to add three more Certified Training Providers to its program, bringing the total number to 14 across the Marcellus Shale footprint in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. ( For the entire list visit: )

The newsletter also highlights the start of ShaleNET floorhand classes which were held in McKean and Indiana County. This course trains workers for positions in the entry level floor hand position, and differs from roustabout training by focusing on rig and electrical components, basic well control, and less on heavy equipment operation.

ShaleNET links industry, workforce investment boards and training providers to ensure local worker placement in six entry-level, family sustaining positions that have been identified as High Priority Occupations  by the Pennsylvania Workforce Development, a program of the state’s Department of Labor & Industry. To learn more or register for the newsletter, go to

And watch the Our Region’s Business video below featuring ShaleNET’s  Byron Kohut,  Col. Grey Berrier II, deputy commander of the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and CONSOL Energy’s  Gary Slagel.