Students in Stark State College’s ShaleNET Share program received a big boost this autumn thanks to a donation from industry partner Chevron Corporation, which added $215,000 in funding to a $506,483 grant award from Ohio’s Education Innovation Program to support the project.
The gift, which was announced Oct. 19, is part of Chevron’s Appalachia Partnership Initiative, a $20-million effort designed to address education and workforce development in 27 counties across southwest Pennsylvania, northern West Virginia and eastern Ohio.
Chevron’s partnership with ShaleNET Share will seek to enrich integrated workforce education programs at Stark State by developing curriculum resources, supply chain connections, post-secondary training programs and skilled trade certifications.
“Identifying local workforce gaps and ensuring that the right tools, training programs and resources are aimed at creating long-term regional job opportunities is a key Chevron priority,” said Trip Oliver, manager of Policy, Government and Public Affairs for Chevron’s Appalachian Mountain Business Unit.
“We’re excited and proud to support Stark State College’s growing ShaleNET Share project and thank President (Para) Jones for her leadership as well as others involved in these important efforts focused on critical educational opportunities that will strengthen and better prepare the Tri-State area’s workforce for success,” he commented.
Stark State’s oil and gas technologies program offers workforce training that is based in the college’s $3.7 million Well Site Training Lab located in downtown Canton, Ohio. The college is one of four ShaleNET hubs in the nation that is supported by a U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Grant to offer oil and gas industry-approved training.
The ShaleNET Share program extends that training to students at partner schools Eastern Gateway Community College, Hocking College, and new partner Belmont College.
Dan Schweitzer, who directs Stark State’s oil and gas technologies program, said Chevron has been providing scholarship support to help students enrolled in oil and gas certificate and degree programs at the college since the beginning of ShaleNET.
“Chevron was a strong industry partner for the original ShaleNET Department of Labor grant,” said Schweitzer, adding that Chevron extended its scholarship support after the original ShaleNET grant ended.
Chevron’s recent gift will help ShaleNET Share students with room and board costs during their participation in an intensive 10-week summer training program. The scholarships are also providing $500 in tuition assistance for each student.
Schweitzer said StarkState will also use a portion of Chevron’s donation to purchase equipment for a SCADA system called “OpenEnterprise” that was developed by Bristol Babcock, a company that specializes in engineered systems and other products for oil and gas, process control, wastewater treatment and other industries.
SCADA, the acronym for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition, is a type of computer system that gathers and analyzes real-time data to monitor and control large pieces of equipment or industrial plants such as those used in oil and gas refining operations.
Up to 80 students can enroll in the ShaleNET Share program each year. After completing 40 hours of core technical classes at their home institutions, students spend 20 hours on field-specific, hands-on courses at Stark State. A graduate of the program is then prepared to become an instrumentation and measurement technician or a measurement and mechatronics technician, positions that Schweitzer said are in high demand.
“Dominion, Momentum M3, Marathon, Williams, and Chesapeake have each individually requested measurement specialization with electro-mechanical, technician-level curriculum be added to our degree canon,” Schweitzer stated.
Instrumentation and electronic technicians are employed in all sectors of the oil and gas industry. Working at well pads, on pipelines and at meter sales points, instrumentation and electronics technicians install, maintain and repair electronics, instruments, and automation and measurement equipment.
The field of mechatronics combines the principals of mechanics, electronics and computing. Mechatronics technicians install, maintain and repair automated systems at oil refineries, natural gas and related processing plants, well pads, sales meter points, pipelines and compressor stations.
Schweitzer explained that the mechatronics component of ShaleNET’s measurement and mechatronics training offers a crossover skill-set for careers in the natural gas midstream and downstream industries, in advanced manufacturing, and in many other industries where process control is an integral part of daily operations.
The measurement component is a fundamental skill set that instrumentation and electronics technicians must master and that Schweitzer said represents an important upward career path from instrumentation and electronic technician to measurement technician.