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Jobs & Energy: A Focus on Workforce Development

Sep 08, 2017

In southwestern Pennsylvania, partnering with educators to better prepare students to enter the workforce is a top priority for the energy industry. The development of the Marcellus Shale, pioneered by Range Resources in 2004, created thousands of new jobs in Pennsylvania. Local economies were bolstered, and students had new options that are continuing to allow them to build careers in or near their hometowns. 

This fall, as students return to high school classrooms in Washington County, they will be able to take advantage of energy industry supported programs like Junior Achievement, the Challenge Program, and Job Shadow opportunities at the Southpointe offices of Range Resources.  

At the secondary level, Range employees are involved with several different institutions, including West Virginia University (WVU), where the Energy Land Management program is now in its third year; and Pittsburgh Technical College (PTC),where students can earn an Associate's or Bachelor's degree in a number of fields associated with the energy industry.  

Range Resources' Engineering Tech Megan Crow has an Associate's Degree in Mechanical Drafting from Pittsburgh Technical College, and is a 2012 graduate of Charleroi High School.  Megan interned for Range in 2014, and later accepted a full-time job offer.   

“Initially, I thought I’d end up at some sort of machining company,” says Crow. “But there were so many options. The work I do at Range has me using software that is different from what I learned in school.  But because I became familiar with so many types of software and programs at PTC, it was easy to catch on and figure it out. PTC prepared me really well to be able to adapt and learn new things.”  

Facilities Engineering and Construction Manager at Range Resources, Paul Deakin, hired Crow after being impressed with her work as an intern. “Megan came to work for Range and she just hit it out of the ballpark. She creates 3-D drawings for several teams at Range; and she’s played a big role in helping us become more efficient.”  

Deakin is also on the Industry Advisory Board at Pittsburgh Technical College. In that role, he helps to develop curriculum, and provides energy industry support and advice as needed. "We helped the college develop its oil and gas instrumentation technician program, among others."  He has seen firsthand the benefits PTC is providing to students, and local companies seeking to hire skilled workers. "There are great opportunities available to young people who are willing to work hard."

That sentiment is shared by PTC Vice President of Strategy, Jeff Belsky. "Two-year degrees can be a phenomenal choice for students. They can head directly into the workforce with welding, HVAC, electronics instrumentation, mechanical drafting - or sometimes take those credits and apply them to a four-year degree, either here at PTC or elsewhere." Belsky says industry support has been key to the college's success. "Range has been a partner of ours for many years and has always been supportive with donations and time especially when it comes to our Energy Technology Center in Oakdale. Range is one of our key partners within the energy industry and it's a great relationship."

At West Virginia University, students are now able to obtain a Bachelor's Degree in Energy Land Management. Range Resources Vice President of Land, Barry Osborne, helped with the curriculum and launch of the program and now sits on the program's Board of Advisors.  

“WVU put a lot of work into this program, and it has been very successful,” says Osborne. “There several different energy companies represented on the advisory board who all share the passion and desire for educating the next wave of our workforce. ” 

WVU student Christopher Fricke completed a Land internship with Range Resources this past summer (2017).  “It was one of the most rewarding experiences I've been a part of. At school, I'm learning something new every day, and at Range, the people I worked with were the best part – they were so motivated, they taught me so much, and I felt very prepared as a result of the curriculum that I've been challenged with at WVU.”  

The WVU program goes beyond petroleum. “I was one of the people who strongly suggested the program be called 'Energy Land Management' rather than 'Petroleum Land Management',” says Osborne. “Because the skills students are learning are transferrable to different energy sectors, including wind and solar.  And there are graduates working in those fields now.”  

WVU is one of only eleven schools in the county that has received accreditation from the American Association of Professional Landmen. “We also have the second largest program in the nation at this point,” says program coordinator and Professor Shawn Grushecky.  “Behind only the University of Oklahoma.”  

He also points to a high success rate for graduates.  “We are currently at 100 percent employment for our students who have gone through the Energy Land Management program.  We're proud of what we're building, and we couldn't have done it without support from the industry. From serving on our advisory board, to establishing funding to get the program started and helping to create coursework – that support has been critical. And Range Resources has been a part of it from the very beginning.”  

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