New Castle News

Closer Look

October 4, 2012

Rapid retraining jobs program launched

NEW CASTLE — Learning to become a go-fer could result in a job in western Pennsylvania’s fast-growing energy industry.

Butler County Community College is seeing a 60 percent job placement for students who complete a roustabout course, offered this year, project manager Karen Zapp said.

The three-week class, offered for $355, provides students with skills to get a foot in the door at Marcellus Shale and energy industry sites, Zapp said.

“They come in as the go-fer guy” she said. “After that, they can work their way up to a driller and other jobs.”

This and other training programs are part of JobTrakPA, a statewide initiative to get unemployed, displaced workers back to work. It was launched Wednesday in Harrisburg.

Pennsylvania’s 14 community colleges will provide fast and affordable retraining through the program, funded through a $20 million Department of Labor Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College career training grant. This money was made available to community colleges last fall to provide new skills to the workforce.

In addition to the roustabout class, non-credit, rapid retraining courses offered at Butler County Community College teach fundamentals of welding or manufacturing, industrial mechanics, production technology, qualifying people for jobs created by natural gas drilling.

The Community College of Beaver County is preparing students for jobs as wastewater treatment operators, water treatment operators and process technicians.

Zapp said roustabout classes were offered in February, April, June and August. Another will begin Oct. 22.

A three-week fundamental welding class will be scheduled as soon as at least six people sign up, she added.

“The energy industry is a new kind of work than what we’re used to,” she said, noting employees are required to put in 12-hour days, often far from their homes.

“But we are up to it,” she said. “We here in Pennsylvania have a good work ethic.”

“If someone has been out of work for months or a year or more, the most important questions to ask are whether this training will result in a job and how soon,” said Nick Neupauer, president of Butler County Community College.

“This training is designed to deliver specific skills tailored to successful performance on the job, enabling us to develop quick courses.”

Some courses, he said, prepare student trainees to participate in industry-sanctioned exams leading to certifications.

State officials project 4,800 job openings exist in advanced manufacturing, 32,000 jobs in energy distribution, production and conservation will be needed by 2016, and more than 9,000 job openings will exist in healthcare information technology.

Following completion of courses, the community colleges provide job placement assistance.

Zapp and JobTrakPA career coach Jerry Johnston will visit Lawrence County CareerLink from 8 a.m. to noon Thursday to explain the program to staff and meet with anyone interested in learning more.

More information about the training program is available at www.JobTrakPA.com.

(Email: nlowry@ncnewsonline.com)

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