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Colleges in Western Pa. to emphasize curricula for energy, industrial fields

Aaron Auperlee | Tribune-Review

Colleges in Western Pennsylvania are gearing up to emphasize curricula that prepares students to jobs in energy and industrial fields.

Rosedale Technical Institute in Kennedy, which on Wednesday will change its name to Rosedale Technical College, is among schools aiming to help students find work in many fields, especially natural gas drilling in deep shale.

“Industrial jobs are in demand, and employees need a variety of skills,” Rosedale President Dennis Wilke said. “These folks may not be working on the same thing every day.”

Starting this month, Rosedale will offer a two-year industrial technician associate degree program, and next year, the school will add a welding course and associate-level programs in collision repair technology and applied business management, Wilke said.

Nick Hoolver, 20, of Fredonia in Mercer County intends to enroll in the welding program. A graduate of the college’s diesel mechanic program, Hoolver said learning to weld would help him improve his career options.

“Being able to weld, it makes you five steps ahead of the game,” Hoolver said.

The natural gas boom in Pennsylvania has fueled a resurgence in industrial and manufacturing jobs, Wilke said. He expects demand to increase if Shell builds its proposed ethane cracker plant in Beaver County.

Related: Yale, Penn State studies offer conflicting views of fracking

Butler County Community College recently added four energy-related classes to its curriculum, and Westmoreland County Community College has an energy degree program. Community colleges in Allegheny and Beaver counties offer classes and training for shale jobs.

“There certainly is a need. It is going to be an increasing … need for that skill set,” said David Pistner, director of energy initiatives at Penn State University’s Pennsylvania College of Technology.

Shale-related companies planned to hire 2,000 employees in 2014, more than a quarter of them in engineering and construction fields, according to a workforce survey released by the North Fayette-based Marcellus Shale Coalition. More than 80 percent of those hires could come from Pennsylvania and surrounding states.

Shale-related industries employed about 238,000 people last year, according the state Department of Labor and Industry. A person working in the shale industry earns $90,000 on average.

 

Aaron Aupperlee is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7986 or aaupperlee@tribweb.com.

 

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