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February 22, 2011 | By | Posted in General News, Video

VIDEO: Marcellus Shale Students Riding Wave of Opportunity

Training for industry work after other careers failed

In the midst of Marcellus shale development, Lackawanna College has established a satellite college in New Milford to train students to fill the industry jobs created in the midst of a recession.

Larry Milliken, director of energy programs for Lackawanna College, launched the New Milford program in 2009.

“The college hired me to develop a gas technology program and then decided that putting it up here in Milford, in Susquehanna county, in the middle of the gas development area was the right center to do this program at,” said Mr. Milliken.

The two year associate of science degree includes geology courses, computer application training, industrial safety, microeconomics and a course in environmental law and safety.

Phillip Kithcart, a former stone quarrier, was unemployed for over a year before beginning the natural gas technology program.

“I tried for a year and a half to get a job and nothing, no one would look at me,” said Mr. Kithcart. “No one would hire me but with this course, I’m now, even at part-time, making more money than I ever have.”

Mr. Kithcart said working in the industry is a great opportunity.

“There’s a lot that I’ve learned. Everything from the drilling aspects and…there’s a lot of misunderstood facts about the drilling and the gas recovery portion of it,” he s aid.

At 46, Brian Hollister had to find a new career when the recession wiped out his life savings.

“I worked with Chesapeake Energy and our training initially to be well tenders with the possibility of advancing into management areas,” said Mr. Hollister. “The well tending job was what I did this summer.”

Mr. Milliken said the college has students from all walks of life, from those just out of high school to those looking for a fresh start.

“The average age of our students is about 27,” he said. “We have had a number of people who have had maybe a year or two of college at some other college or have been out in the workforce – a number of positions that either ended, their job ended, or their salary peaked, they were dead-ended, they could never make more than what they were making after two or three years of doing it. They saw the gas industry as a really good opportunity for a much better paying and stable career.”

Praising his internship, Mr. Hollister said working in the industry has been a great opportunity, one he expects to last for a long time.

“I’ve never been to college before, I had no intention of going to college, this just popped up,” he said. “I heard about it, it was the only game in town, nobody else was doing this and it’s close to my home. It’s a cheap education too.”

And with the industry pushing job growth in manufacturing to fourteen percent, Lackawanna College is looking to build on the natural gas technology degree with new programs.

“We plan for next year to bring all the resources together to develop a compression technology program, which would be a one year certificate program,” said Mr. Milliken. “We have an entrepreneurship program for people who are interested in developing their own business and getting involved in one of the many, many service industry jobs or companies that are taking care of and working with the gas industry, so the college and particularly this campus is looking to grow and expand what we offer.”

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Darwyyn Deyo is a reporter for PA Independent. She can be reached at darwyyn@paindependent.com.

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