DuBois program readies 15 for work in natural gas industry

Fifteen people graduated from the Floor Hand Training Program at Penn State DuBois on Friday, June 7, armed with new knowledge and certifications that qualify them for a wide range of jobs in the natural gas industry.

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 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 program are covered by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. 

Training such as the Floor Hand program can mean the difference between working on the peripheral drilling site and working directly on the rig in higher-scale positions. Even people who already have experience in the natural gas industry say that such training can make a difference for them. Richard Irvin, of Reynoldsville, and Anthony Kurtz, of Brockway, are two such people. Both have prior experience working at natural gas drilling sites, but completed the Floor Hand Program in order to broaden their knowledge and expand their opportunities.

"I learned a lot. Our instructor was top-notch and thorough, and he could really explain what it's like to work in the field," said Irvin, who was laid off from his position as a hose department supervisor with a drilling company due to cutbacks. Now that he has qualifications to land a position working directly on the rig, he's confident that more stable employment opportunities will open up for him. He said, "I'm better prepared to work in the Marcellus field. Now, I have the certifications and knowledge to actually go out and work on a drilling rig."

Kurtz worked in the gas industry as a roustabout, completing various tasks around the job site, before changing career paths for a while. When he heard about the Floor Hand Training Program, he figured it was the way to get back into the gas industry and boost his income.

"I got out, and got into welding. I wasn't making any money," Kurtz said. "I wanted to get more experience in the gas industry and get on a drilling rig. Money is the all-controlling factor in the world, and rigs pay well. It's hard work, but that's what I enjoy." 

Throughout the training, representatives from North Central, Pennsylvania CareerLink and Penn State DuBois also guided students on preparing their résumés, completing job searches, and networking with potential employers. Their goal is to help the graduates find jobs right away. 

"Penn State DuBois Continuing Education and our partners are committed to assisting individuals in obtaining the education they need to obtain good positions in the workforce," said Betsy Carlson, Continuing Education program aide. "Students have come from as far away as Wyoming to complete this training at Penn State DuBois. We are glad to be able to provide this needed training for individuals seeking employment in the natural gas industry." 

Members of the latest graduating class of the Floor Hand Training Program not only agree that they are now better qualified for jobs in the natural gas industry, but they also hope others take advantage of the same opportunities.

"I would definitely suggest this program to other people," Irvin said.

Penn State DuBois has partnered with several organizations connected to the Natural Gas Industry through ShaleNET to offer this three-week training program that prepares individuals for careers in the Marcellus Shale boom at very little cost. Located inside Penn College’s Center for Business & Workforce Development, ShaleTEC provides a centralized location for industry, students and the public to obtain information regarding shale and tight sand workforce-development initiatives. 

In all, the Floor Hand Training Program is a product of the collaboration between ShaleNet, the North Central Workforce Investment Board, Superior Energy Resources, Pennsylvania CareerLink and Penn State DuBois. 

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Last Updated June 17, 2013