From Black to Blue
Coal miners find new opportunity through the Gas Technology Institute.
For years, this region has depended upon the coal industry to fuel not only our homes, but also our economy. In recent years, however, coal has been identified as a resource that, while inexpensive, can take a major toll on the environment. As the coal industry continues to dissolve against safer and more environmentally-friendly energy sources, thousands of jobs have been lost and those who have spent their lives in the mines are now struggling to find employment.
To help these displaced workers, the Gas Technology Institute has developed a program that will train those with coal backgrounds or those from similar industries to transition into the natural gas field. The Gas Technology Institute, or GTI, is a research, development and training organization that supports energy initiatives and technology-based solutions. GTI has facilities throughout the country with a variety of training opportunities, including the Natural Gas Utility and Pipeline Field Skills Training Program.
The course is a four week program designed to provide students with a basic understanding of natural gas, as well as the natural gas and pipeline industries. At the close of the program, potential employers are invited to a presentation session and career fair, where students can mingle with representatives from companies in the industry.
“The utility industry and its contractors have a big need for workforce and this program can help fill that gap,” GTI Program Manager Patrick Findle said. “A skilled workforce impacts industry safety, compliance and efficiency.”
Since the program's inception in November 2017, Peoples has been actively involved and has assisted in the development of the curriculum. Two Peoples retirees, Gary Wojcik and Bill Wright, serve as instructors for the program and offer students first-hand knowledge of the industry and of Peoples.
Throughout the four weeks, students are immersed in both instructional classes and field trips, including a visit to our McKeesport Training Center, where students meet with Peoples employees and see demonstrations.
“The classroom sessions and field trips expose potential employees to what their work-life would be like if they were hired by a gas utility or one of its contractors,” Wojcik said. “Peoples’ technical training staff delivers an array of hands-on demonstrations that support the items the students learn in the classroom.”
Many of the students involved in the program are already employed or have family responsibilities, so Wojcik recognizes the importance of engaging students through instruction. Those who are successful in the program have the opportunity to find gainful employment in a growing field.
“The students that are hired may be on their way to a rewarding and life-changing career,” Wojcik said. “Knowing that I played a part in that process is extremely rewarding."
Students who complete the program leave with not only an overview of the industry, but also the opportunity to make a connection with energy companies in the area.
“The program has become a feeder of candidates to consider for hire,” Findle said. “Employers are recognizing this program for the strong candidates it is developing and students value this ‘pipeline’ to jobs.”
The Natural Gas Utility and Pipeline Field Skills Training Program is grant-funded and is free for students to enroll. Potential students must successfully complete a background check and DOT drug screening to be considered.
If you know someone who is interested in transitioning into natural gas distribution, we encourage you to refer them to GTI today!