About two dozen employment recruiters, business representatives and others toured some natural gas sites in Susquehanna County on Wednesday, learning what jobs will be available in the industry.
Representatives of Cabot Gas & Oil Company presented the tour in conjunction with the Susquehanna County Career and Technology Center. They said their goal is to make sure local people get trained for the jobs they’ll have to offer.
“We’re trying to show them what it takes to get a job, what it takes to work in our industry,” said Cabot spokesperson George Stark.
“It gives us a better understanding of what the jobs are now and what they’ll be like in the future,” noted Corky Staats, a job developer for Trehab.
“We’re educating ourselves as to seeing what those job opportunities are,” added Gary Matson, executive director of the Northern Tier Industry & Education Consortium.
Alice Davis, director of the career center, said knowing what employment opportunities are there helps employers and schools know what to prepare young people for.
“The worst thing to do is to have students get an education and not be able to get a job,” Davis said.
Traveling by school bus, the group went to three well sites to observe different phases of the gas drilling process.
The first stop was at the well site on the Elk Lake School District property. That site is in full operation producing gas. In fact, the school district has already received a royalty payment from the gas extracted there.
The group then stopped briefly at a well site on the Grosvenor property about a mile away. That site is just being developed, with heavy equipment clearing the land for a well pad.
Finally, the bus travelled to the Blaisure property, where a drilling rig is in the process of boring the first of six wells on that pad.
Stark said there is a misconception that gas well jobs are all going to people from out-of-state. He explained that while the actual drilling work tends to be done by experienced workers brought into the area, once the wells are in operation there are plenty of jobs for local people.
“The rigs are temporary. It’s the piece that’s up and gone the fastest,” he said.
Jonathan Pugh, a Cabot pipeline foreman, said many of the jobs are not through Cabot itself, but with its subsidiaries or subcontractors. For example, he said GDS Inc., the company Cabot uses to do site and rig construction, is always in need of laborers.
“That company needs people straight out of high school to work on heavy equipment,” Pugh said.
He added that the work is hard and the hours are long, but it’s worth it.
“It’s not for the faint-hearted. You’re out there to work,” he told the employment representatives. “But they get paid well. They get paid very well.”
Other subcontractors looking for workers are those that draw the water for the drilling and fracking process, such as Somerset Regional Water Resources. Pugh said that company is growing rapidly, with nearly 100 employees, most of whom are local.
One occupation that the industry will continue to need as it grows is welding, Stark said. Just about every phase of the operation requires skilled welders, he said.
“They’re the highest in demand. They can virtually name their hours, their salary,” he said.
At the Blaisure site, the group heard from Jerry Dugas, a Cabot drilling superintendent.
Dugas explained that the gas industry is not a transient business. It is to stay, he said, which is why it needs local workers.
To illustrate that, Dugas said after decades of living and working for Cabot in Texas, he now calls Tunkhannock home.
“I’ve got my Pennsylvania driver’s license and I’m registered to vote, so I’m here for the long haul,” he said.
Cabot has a significant financial investment in the area, Dugas said, noting that each well costs the company $6 to 8 million to drill. Cabot – and the other gas companies – wouldn’t be here if they didn’t expect to be profitable.
“Pennsylvania’s got the chance to become the next Texas, by a long shot,” he said.