The Lackawanna College School of Petroleum & Natural Gas is relocating to Tunkhannock after a decade in New Milford.
Renovations have been underway in recent months at the former Thomas’ Supermarket in the Tioga West Plaza along business Route 6 for a facility that will more than double the school’s current class size when it opens in the fall of 2021.
“The new facility, including a state-of-the art laboratory and industry equipment will enable growth unavailable at our current site,” said Lackawanna College president Jill Murray.
“That is wonderful news,” Wyoming County Commissioner Tom Henry said. “It will repurpose a substantial building on this side of the river in ways we could only dream about. And, it creates an obvious avenue for everyone to see the role our county seat plays as it is central to the Marcellus gas industry.”
Tunkhannock Township supervisor Hoyt Keiser said the Lackawanna College plans are “beyond exciting. We understand they also want to tap into the Get Gas program from UGI, that not only allows them to teach about Marcellus gas but also physically uses it for their heating and physical plant needs. It is a win-win for everyone. And when the students get here there can only be a ripple effect for the businesses in the area.”
Pointing to her present surroundings just off of I-81 in Susquehanna County, PNG program director Sue Gumble said, “We have outgrown this, and we need more space.”
The lab at the school will expand from approximately 2,000 to 5,000 square feet. There will also be an equipment yard nearby where apparatus will be stored as it is moved in and out of the labs for instruction. A lot of equipment that is currently outside the classroom modules at New Milford will be taken inside for dismantling and reassembly.
“This will allow for more hands-on training for students,” Gumble explained, adding that compressed air lines in the labs can be hooked up to the machinery to demonstrate how it functions. “If the piece doesn’t work, they will have an opportunity for trouble-shooting.”
PNG school faculty are hopeful that the current COVID situation will have abated by next year so the school can be opened to full capacity. If not, they are prepared to enhance already planned safety features and will still be in a better position to safely accommodate more students. “It will make it easier to adapt to COVID guidelines,” Gumble related. “We currently have 25 students in a class, so we have to split them into two classes. There, we will be able to spread them out in one class.”
In addition to more space, school administrators feel that the Tunkhannock Township location is more central to the pool of students they want to attract. “This will make us equally accessible to students in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties, as well as Bradford, Sullivan and Susquehanna,” Gumble remarked. “Plus it’s so close to where most of the industry is, including Cabot, Southwestern and Williams. It will make it a lot easier to get industry people in to lecture.”
“This is good news for the natural gas industry as the School of PNG has been key in providing Southwestern Energy with trained interns and employees,” said Mike Narcavage, SWN senior government and community relations manager. “Southwestern Energy is a strong supporter of the school, and we anticipate that to continue into the future.”
The two-year program, which maintains a balance between book work, hands-on lab time, and field trips to gas-related facilities, includes a summer internship between the first and second year. While the curriculum at the school is constantly evolving to keep up with technical advances in the gas industry, companies from as far away as Illinois and Kentucky have been contacting the school because they too are in need of freshly-trained employees.
“Lackawanna College is beyond proud of the exceptional education our School of PNG provides to help individuals obtain quality jobs in the petroleum and natural gas industry, and the move to Tunkhannock will help us expand our training opportunities,” Murray stated. “We are also excited to extend our curriculum into new areas unrelated to the petroleum and natural gas industry, such as business and human services.”
Lackawanna College also offers flexibility with both in-person and online classes.
As the curriculum expands, some classes may begin at the new location as early as the spring semester, at which time there will also be a public ribbon cutting, maybe around March.
Currently enrolled PNG students will stay put until next year as the equipment with which they are currently working can’t be moved until the end of the school year.
For more information about Lackawanna College’s PNG program, visit www.lackawanna.edu/academics/school-of-petroleum-and-natural-gas/.