Gas industry training creates new opportunity, second chances

Mike Disney couldn't help but smile as he received his certificate for completing the Floor Hand Training Program. As one of 14 graduates of the latest Floor Hand class at Penn State DuBois, the Arkansas native can finally start a new career, and get his life back on track after a layoff derailed his 20-plus year career in mass media.

Penn State DuBois has partnered with several organizations connected to the Natural Gas Industry through ShaleNET to offer training that will prepare individuals for careers in the Marcellus Shale boom at very little cost. The Floor Hand Training Program provides all of the training and certifications the students in the program need to enter the workforce on a gas well drilling site as a floor hand. The costs for this class and the ShaleNET program are covered by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Floor hands operate and maintain drilling systems and pumps by connecting and disconnecting pipes, inspecting derricks, cleaning and oiling derricks, and performing other general maintenance tasks around the rig.

The certificate for his newly completed training marks a major milestone on what has been a long road for Disney. The 39-year-old married father of four rose to the rank of regional manager for his Arkansas-based media company. That career, however, came to an end when the company was forced to close their Arkansas offices. The layoff would force Disney to sell his family's home as he struggled to find work in a bleak economy.

"I have a business degree, and I kept applying for professional positions," Disney remembered. "But in this economy, I only got three interviews in a year and a half."  

Disney considered a career change and looked into the natural gas industry when he heard about the Marcellus Shale boom in the northeast.  However, he found that it was a difficult industry to break into with no prior experience or training. Then, he happened to have the TV on at just the right time.

"I've been interested in gas and oil for years, but I never got into it because it requires experience or education specific to the industry," Disney said. "Then I saw this story on Fox News about ShaleNET and the education they provided. I searched around on the Internet, and found the training offered at DuBois."

Soon, Disney made some calls and was signed up for the program. He packed his bags, and headed out from Arkansas to DuBois. After a long job search full of trials and disappointment, the idea of the gas industry training was able to lift his spirits for the first time in a long time.

"The minute I talked to them on the phone I saw the light," Disney remembered.  "I'm in the light right now, today. It's a complete change for me, but I'm excited about my future."

Before graduation for the Floor Hand Training Program event took place, Disney and his classmates were getting job offers. He's now deciding which one to take.

If I was going to title my life, I'd title it 'The Man That Lost All Hope.' But, I have hope again now. I went from no job offers in a year and a half to already having gas and oil companies knocking on my door. It blows me away." 

Following the graduation ceremony, graduates met with representatives from companies in the gas and oil industries at a career fair organized by Penn State DuBois' Continuing Education department to help them get into jobs right away.

"Penn State DuBois Continuing Education is committed to assisting individuals obtain the education they need to obtain good positions in the workforce. We are glad to be able to provide this needed training and excited to have someone come from as far away as Arkansas to participate in this training opportunity," said Betsy Carlson, Continuing Education program aide.

The next Floor Hand Training Programs at Penn State DuBois are scheduled to begin May 6 and 28. Information sessions for those interested in attending the next classes are planned for 5 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 9, and 1 p.m. until 2:30 p.m. Thursday, April 11.

Each class is limited to a total of 17 students. Interested individuals are advised to attend one of the information sessions. To reserve your seat for either information session, log on to or call 814-372-3005.

Last Updated April 08, 2013