Lackawanna College President offers testimony before U.S. House
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Lackawanna College President Mark Volk recently delivered testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources regarding the College’s School of Petroleum & Natural Gas and its ongoing mission to educate and train generations of students from in and around northeastern Pennsylvania.
During the June 24, 2014, oversight hearing titled “American Energy Jobs: Opportunities for Education,” Volk was one of six witnesses to offer testimony regarding the important link between effective education in relation to the energy industry. The subcommittee is under the House Committee on Natural Resources.
“This new energy age has created an extraordinary need for local workers who have the skills and the training to fill the needs of these employers. As a result, educational institutions have risen to the challenge and created programs with the explicit goals of training our workforce to compete and succeed in this field,” explained Subcommittee Chairman U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.).
During prepared testimony, Volk outlined the formation of the School of Petroleum & Natural Gas early in the development of the Marcellus Shale resource play in Pennsylvania.
“We forged ahead to start a program from scratch. We determined that the needs for qualified petroleum and natural gas field and compression technicians were very high – and positioned only to get higher,” he said.
By investing into a center in Susquehanna County that was chosen because of its proximity to job opportunities for graduates, partnering with industry to develop curriculum, and focusing on both petroleum- and natural gas-related concepts, “our graduates have the option and ability to work locally, regionally, nationally, and even internationally,” Volk said.
“Our results speak for themselves,” he continued. “Lackawanna College today is placing students at a near 100% rate within the industry – in positions paying well above salaries typically seen in our region. These are not just jobs for today, but jobs that will be with us for generations – jobs that are reigniting the American Dream of providing better opportunities for our children.”
In addressing a question on student debt from Chairman Lamborn, Volk said that the College strives to keep tuition costs low for many Lackawanna students while offering degrees that lead to jobs where salaries exceed annual education costs.
“Right now our tuition is about $12,400 for a year. If you multiply that by two for an associate degree and look at average starting salaries way into the $60,000-$70,000 range for our Petroleum & Natural Gas graduates, that makes great sense,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) noted the various out-of-state license plates he sees parked at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport and their link to the petroleum and natural gas industries in his district.
“It’s folks like you and places like Lackawanna College that… help place Pennsylvanians in this burgeoning field,” he said.
The representative from Moosic also inquired about the College’s close collaboration with industry professionals to establish a curriculum. Volk said the ongoing process has given strength to degree programs like those offered at the School of Petroleum & Natural Gas.
“The collaboration with the other industry partners – individuals that will give us internships, companies that will provide equipment – is a tremendous offset for a small school like us who really can’t afford to keep up to date with all of the changes, the rapidly changing technology,” Volk added. “Having that collaboration between higher education and industry, the private sector, is a tremendous opportunity and, I think, a model that really could transcend across many of the degree programs that we have out there today.”
“That’s something that a lot of educational institutions could learn from,” Cartwright said. “If we’re going to cure the skills gap, the best way to do it is to share the information with the industry that’s providing the jobs, the folks that are going to need these people coming out of your programs.”
The School of Petroleum & Natural Gas will add degree programs in measurement and business management this fall to those already available in compression and technology, and all programs accept limited student cohorts so that the job market is not oversaturated with qualified candidates produced by the College.
In thanking Volk for his appearance before the subcommittee, Cartwright said, “I have personally witnessed his commitment to delivering high-quality experienced education combining flexibility, affordability, and direct hands-on experiences to maximize the value of a student’s educational experience. Lackawanna College has a long history of providing innovative workplace development, community policing, and Allied Health programs, and now has expanded to provide students a quality foundation to pursue jobs in energy fields.”
Archived video of the subcommittee hearing and prepared statements from each of the witnesses are available at http://naturalresources.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=384518.