U.S. Rep. Fred Keller, R-PA, toured Lackawanna College’s School of Petroleum and Natural Gas in New Milford on Monday and was astounded about the great opportunity that awaits area students.
“When you look at the partnership between the natural gas companies here and what they’re doing to help develop the next training and workforce, it’s just really a great opportunity for an affordable education where people can earn family sustaining wages,” Keller said.
During the afternoon, he heard from Lackawanna College officials about associate degree offerings at the campus, as well as career outlooks for students.
Lackawanna College developed the program in 2009 as Marcellus Shale drilling boomed in the area.
Each class sees 30-40 students, with 70-80 students per year. While many students enroll straight out of high school, the program also sees adult learners who want to change industries.
Students receive hands-on experience in the classroom, followed by paid internships with companies such as Cabot, Williams or Southwestern Energy.
“We don’t have enough students to fill the internships,” said Associate Director of the School of PNG Sue Gumble. “That’s how many jobs are needed in this industry.”
Oftentimes, companies keep students on as employees and work around their school schedules until they finish their degrees, hiring them full time upon graduation.
Lackawanna College mainly trains students for natural gas jobs that will remain once drilling is finished in the area, though students can also move away for other opportunities.
“We train our employees for the jobs that are going to be here forever. When the drilling is gone, they still have to move the gas, they still have to compress the gas,” Gumble explained. “That’s where our students go, to those jobs so they can stay in the area and have a job to support their families and themselves long term.”
George Stark, director of external affairs for Cabot, said natural gas careers remain in high demand.
“We’re always excited with the classes that come through the college because we know we’re able to recruit and fill our job openings with qualified candidates,” Stark said.
On Monday, he was glad to showcase the “education and professionalism that goes into the energy industry.”
With the district being a significant producer of natural gas, he appreciates Congressman Keller’s support, including his appointment to the House Energy Action Team.
“We’re glad to see a local congressman on such a prestigious committee recognizing how prolific energy production is in his district,” Stark said.
Selection onto this team was an honor for Keller since the natural gas industry remains an important part of Pennsylvania’s 12th District.
“When you look at the implications of what natural gas plays in our nation’s energy, I think it makes sense to have me on a team so that we can be working on policies that will foster more domestic energy growth,” he said. “It’s really a good opportunity for our region to make sure our story gets told and we get policies in place that allow the industry to thrive.”
The congressman also stated that other politicians calling to get rid of fossil fuels don’t realize the hindrance it would have on communities and family sustaining jobs.
“When you look at what Cabot does, they put $60 million into roads, they’re helping here with the education of our workforce,” he said. “Then you can look at the national security implications that having American energy provides, security not just for us, but for our allies around the globe.”
The Lackawanna College School of Petroleum and Natural Gas has an express enrollment event planned for Wednesday, Aug. 28, with radio station Froggy 101.
Students interested in enrolling for the fall semester can drop in at the New Milford campus between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.