Officials tout training for oil-and-gas careers

By Burton Speakman


As the oil-and-gas industry progresses in the Mahoning Valley, companies are seeking more people with technical skills to fill openings.

State legislators, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and a representative from an Ohio training program talked to students from ITT Technical Institute, Columbiana County Career and Technical Center and Ashtabula County Technical and Career Center about jobs that will be available to them. The event was hosted by ITT on Meridian Road.

Employers in the oil-and-gas business are looking to hire people with technical skills who can pass a drug test, said Rhonda Reda, executive director of the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program.

“One of the big things we need to do is encourage kids to pursue careers in the science fields,” she said.

There are needs in pipe welding, mechanics, diesel mechanics and other fields that require training but not necessarily a four-year degree, Reda said.

“There is a real concern in some trades that we won’t have enough workers,” she added.

Linda Woggon, executive vice president at the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, said a study conducted by the chamber estimates oil and gas businesses will create 65,680 jobs in the state by 2014.

“Hopefully, they’ll spend their money and create more jobs,” she said.

There are opportunities not only within oil and gas, however. People can create their own businesses with services that cater to the industry, Woggon said.

One example she provided was a printing company in Cambridge that used to print T-shirts, but now the majority of its business is making flame-retardant uniforms.

There is a lot of potential in the oil-and-gas industry in this area, said state Sen. Joseph Schiavoni of Canfield, D-33rd, assistant Senate minority leader.

At this point, it’s unknown how much oil and gas is available locally, he said. The companies have estimates, but there is no way to know with certainty until drilling begins.

“In my [lifetime], things have always been a struggle in the Mahoning Valley. The older people talk about how you could get a job at the steel mill, work 10 years, and if you didn’t like how things were going, you could go get a job across the street at the same or better pay,” Schiavoni said. “That’s not the case anymore. There are good jobs out there, but you have to work really hard for them.”

The interest in the Utica Shale has made farmers who could not pay their bills two years ago into millionaires overnight, said state Rep. Sean O’Brien of Brookfield, D-65th.

“It’s important to develop the shale and do it right,” he said.

The typical lease in the state provides $2,500 an acre plus 15 percent royalties, Woggon said. Some leases have gone as high as $8,000 an acre, however.

People should realize oil-and-gas development is not new in Ohio, Reda said. There are 64,000 active wells in the state, and some have been active for more than 80 years, she said.

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