New Marcellus Shale training center is fuel for the economy

It may be too soon to tell how the Marcellus Formation and its potential for huge amounts of natural gas reserves play out in the Commonwealth, but there’s no denying that the shale discovery already has had a positive impact on Pennsylvanians.

Residents in poor, rural areas of Appalachia who own oil and gas rights suddenly have money after striking deals with gas companies, and, according to a recent study conducted by the new Marcellus Shale Education and Training Center (MSETC) -- an effort of Penn State Extension and Pennsylvania College of Technology -- the industry will bring thousands of new job opportunities.

“The shale will have the biggest effect on the Pennsylvania economy since the lumber era more than 100 years ago,” said State Sen. Gene Yaw, who represents Bradford, Lycoming, Sullivan, Susquehanna and Union counties, where there has been heavy leasing of land, permitting and drilling activity.

The shale, located in Appalachia, has been a producer of natural gas for years, with the first wells appearing in the 1880s, but until recently had been identified as holding a relatively small amount of potential reserves. Penn State has been involved in many educational efforts and initiatives, including an annual natural gas summit ( held in November, surrounding the Marcellus Shale since the discovery that it may hold up to 363 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Focus on workforce training

According to a recent workforce needs assessment conducted by the MSETC, up to about 2,000 direct, full-time jobs could be required in the Northern Tier (Bradford, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga and Wyoming counties) by the end of this year; that number of jobs is expected to grow to about 5,400 by 2013.

Headquartered at Penn College, the MSETC aims to serve as a central resource for workforce development and community education needs for the industry. The MSETC conducted the assessment through a series of meetings and surveys with industry representatives and is starting to offer courses and training this fall based on that assessment.

“Workforce development and training issues are critical to the success or failure of the industry,” said Larry Michael, executive director of Workforce and Economic Development at Penn College. He added that the combination of Penn College’s technical training and Extension’s community programming has been well received by the industry.

“We need to be ahead of the curve and train the local workforce, so that industry workers are hired from the citizenry of Pennsylvania," Yaw said.

This story is from the fall issue of Penn State Outreach Magazine. To view this and other stories, go to online.

Last Updated November 01, 2010