Stark State Opens the Taps on Training for Ohio Shale Jobs

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Ohioans don't have to dig very far to find a well-paying job in the state's growing oil and gas industry. According to data provided by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, approximately 169,000 Ohioans already work directly or indirectly in the industry, and that number is expected to increase dramatically over the next five years. But in order to tap into many of these jobs, additional education is necessary.


That's where schools like Stark State College come in. Utilizing state and federal grant money, Stark State plans to open a new class/lab site dedicated to training students for the oil and gas industry in northeast Ohio. The new facility, will be built in downtown Canton as part of the Stark State Downtown Canton Satellite Center and Energy Institute. It plans to open in time for the fall 2014 semester.


Stark State is uniquely situated to become a resource for oil and gas workers. Sitting atop both the Marcellus and Utica shale plays, Stark County ranked fifth in the state for the number of new wells drilled (36) in 2012, and neighboring Carroll County ranked first (87). Utica shale permits have been issued to 29 different companies, and 609 wells have been drilled to date. 


The Satellite Center and Energy Institute aims to train the workforce that will man the wells in the coming years. The facility was born in early 2012 when Stark State received a $10 million grant from the state to build it in downtown Canton. Then, in October 2012, Stark State became one of four colleges nationally to receive curriculum funding in the form of a ShaleNET Grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. The college convened an Oil and Gas Advisory Council, consisting of industry, education, community and government leaders, to help guide its curriculum development and programing scope.


The energy institute's new lab will include both indoor space and an outside well site trainer that simulates a fully operational, producing well. According to Kathleen Steere, Stark State College coordinator of oil and gas programs, "The goal is to have the students train in a realistic but controlled safe environment."  Construction will begin in March, 2014.  


Through the ShaleNET program, students at Stark State can already take noncredit floorhand and welder's helper classes, as well as IADC Rig Pass, SafeLAND and SafeGULF training. They also can earn one-year and applied associate of science degrees in petroleum industrial mechanic technology, industrial process operation, petroleum technology (pipeline technician major), and petroleum technology (instrumentation and electronics major). In fall 2013, there were 36 declared majors, with 60 anticipated for spring 2014. Eastern Gateway Community College is the only other Ohio school offering noncredit ShaleNET courses, but other Ohio institutions are developing classes with direct and indirect impact on the industry.


"Support received from the Oil and Gas Advisory Council, college leadership and the Ohio Board of Regents has tremendously helped get the programming up and running in one year," said Steere, adding that "By working closely with industry, the training will evolve as the plays develop to establish a sustainable infrastructure."