Expo outlines careers, future needs of gas industry

During a presentation at the North Central Gas Expo on Thursday, Danielle Boston, director of public outreach for the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association (PIOGA), discussed the wide variety of jobs that will be available as the Marcellus Shale natural gas formation is developed in the region. She said that the development of the Marcellus Shale will provide jobs not just immediately, but also for generations, since the well site development and management process often extends to 50 years or more. "These are decently paying jobs, family-sustaining wages," Boston said. "We're really excited that PA has been very receptive to our industry, and that Pennsylvanians can see the potential of the jobs." Boston discussed a a 2010 report by the Pennsylvania State University detailing the potential economic impact of the Marcellus Shale on the region. The study concluded that extraction of the natural gas in the shale formation could create 111,000 jobs. That number includes not only new jobs directly necessary to the extraction and production process, but also the indirect positions that will be created in areas like food service, transportation, retail and finance in order to support the influx of employees from drilling companies and related businesses."That's an amazing ripple effect they're bringing to PA," she said. Boston said while there a number of science-heavy positions that require four-year or postgraduate degrees, there are also opportunities for high school graduates and people with vocational and technical certificates and degrees. Almost half of the positions that will be available will not require two- or four-year degrees. The types of jobs available will vary from geologists, engineers and water specialists to general laborers, truck drivers with CDL classification and administrative and office personnel. Foresters, attorneys, surveyors, loggers, electricians, welders, purchasing agents, safety technicians and OSHA experts, and regulation compliance managers will also have opportunities as the Marcellus Shale is developed, she said, noting the large number of positions that will need to be filled may surprise people. The sheer size and scope of these types of operations requires it: in addition to employees of the drilling and extraction companies working on-site, various subcontractors will be required to perform tasks related to the drilling sites. "On average, about 20 to 30 subcontractors are needed at a site," Boston said. Boston said people with mechanical aptitude are needed to maintain and repair the huge amount of equipment related to active sites, including heavy trucks and the rigs themselves. "Mechanics are going to be in high demand," she said. Boston emphasized that while the types of jobs that will be available may vary, there are certain characteristics that everyone planning to be part of the industry should have. One of the most important is being drug- and alcohol-free because of the potential dangers on an active drilling site. "This can be a dangerous business, and we need people who are at the top of their game all the time," Boston said.Other looked-for traits include dependability, punctuality, the ability to work well with others, attention to detail and leadership. Boston cautioned that people who will be doing the more labor-intensive work on sites should be physically fit and willing to work at any time of the day and in any kind of weather conditions. "There's a lot of excitement in this industry," Boston said. "It's a 24/7 operation." Two of the questions Boston said she frequently hears are where to get the training needed for some of the expected jobs and where to apply for them. She said PIOGA and other groups associated with the industry are partnering with educational institutions in the region to develop training programs. "What we are trying to do as an industry is work with education providers in the state to provide training for our industry," she said. She suggested that people contact their local CareerLINK, noting that the agencies have become a go-to place for people who want to become part of the industry. They can help find training, as well as match people with available positions. Boston also said that some of the industry's trade associations, such as PIOGA and the Marcellus Shale Coalition, and many of the companies themselves also have job portals and job listings at their respective websites. Other places to look are www.marcellusshalejobs.com and www.pagasdirectory.com. Although many industry-related websites list available positions and others are currently in development, Boston said there is no single place where people can go to find a job at this time. "There's no one-stop shop right now," Boston said. She said there are currently about 75 drilling, extraction and development companies in place in the region, with more soon to follow. "Every day, that's changing. Every day, we have more and more companies coming to PA," Boston said.