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February 25, 2013

Education Options, Part 2: Current shale boom casts new light on county’s economic future

NEW CASTLE — Welcome to the Industrial Revolution of 2013.

The Marcellus Shale phenomenon has arrived with the promise of jobs and prosperity for an area in dire need of just such a miracle.

Not since steel mill furnaces were blazing more than 50 years ago has Lawrence County’s economic future looked so bright.

Now all that remains is to get ready.

Easier said than done.

Area employers, educators and trainers are paving the way, seeking to inform and prepare job-seekers and students for a new world of opportunities.

Colleen Chamberlain of Nordson Xaloy, a manufacturer of melt delivery components, has been a leading voice in heralding the new age.

Chamberlain said business and community groups are working together to get the word out. “It takes that kind of organization to get things rolling.”

But some fear not all students are getting the whole story.

“They’re not getting the information probably because their parents and teachers aren’t fully aware either,” Chamberlain said. “We want to make sure parents know what’s available to their kids.”

CHANGING TIMES

Marcellus Shale changed not only the landscape, but also the conventional thinking about one’s future.

“We’re in the middle of this boom, but we’re not sure what to do about it,” Chamberlain said. “Manufacturing has not gone away. We have a significant number of manufacturers in Lawrence County and the population is here to supply them.”

“There are plenty of good jobs with health benefits and good pay.”

Chamberlain said high school students must be prepared for those jobs now.

“Schools need to know there are manufacturers in our back yard,” she said. “If they don’t know that, students won’t know it either.”

Chamberlain said a certain skillset is required.

“If we, as a community, aren’t ready for it and don’t have the trained personnel to fill those positions, employers would have to bring people here from other areas.”

Today’s college graduates often enter the work force with a large debt.

“You can spend $100,000 on a liberal arts degree, but that doesn’t guarantee a high-paying job,” Chamberlain said. “And college is not for everyone.”

In addition to making a good salary, Chamberlain said, there are other benefits to the emerging jobs. She said some employers, including Nordson Xaloy, will provide their workers an opportunity for more education at a reduced cost.

“We help pay for classes that relates to their jobs.”

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