Sen. Toomey visits School of Petroleum & Natural Gas
NEW MILFORD, Pa. – The Lackawanna College School of Petroleum and Natural Gas is playing a role in the advancement of industry in Pennsylvania and in national security, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Zionsville, said during a visit to the College’s site in New Milford on Aug. 6, 2014.
Sen. Toomey visited the specialized center in order to get a first-hand look at the work being done by the College and its students.
“It’s very exciting to me that we’ve got a college that is providing people, both kids and older adults, with specific training geared specifically for really, really good-paying technical jobs here in Pennsylvania,” Toomey said.
Locally, Toomey said that there was no question that the development of the Marcellus Shale natural gas fields was driving economic growth in the region. The unemployment rate in Susquehanna County was 4.9 percent in June 2014, lower than both the state rate of 5.6 percent and the national rate of 6.1 percent, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry’s Center for Workforce Information and Analysis.
The impact of Marcellus Shale drilling operations in northeastern Pennsylvania go far beyond the region’s physical boundaries, he added.
“The scale of the natural gas that we have is already changing manufacturing. Our heavy industry manufacturers that are very energy intensive are more competitive in Pennsylvania and nearby, more competitive than anywhere else in the world because we’ve got low-cost energy and natural gas,” he said. “It’s going to be hugely helpful to homeowners who heat their homes with natural gas. I think it’s going to increasingly become a transportation fuel, and that’s going to be more affordable for people to drive cars powered by natural gas. It’s also going to diminish our dependence on foreign oil, so it has national security benefits. It’s just a terrific, terrific development.”
Student Kenneth Walter, who begins his second year at Lackawanna this fall, spoke highly about the program during a roundtable discussion with the senator.
“It’s great to see Pennsylvania once again be a leader for our country. We led in the coal industry, we led in the steel industry, and now the gas industry. Everybody wants energy independence. Well, here it is in Pennsylvania, and Lackawanna College has put together a program that is highly skilled,” Walter said.
Brian Hollister, Class of 2011, was one of the first graduates of the Natural Gas Technology degree program.
“Every time I come back here, there’s more equipment, there’s more improvements,” he said.
Hollister also noted that tuition, which is currently $12,980 per year, is not much greater than what he paid as a student. “For $25,000 for the whole degree, you can walk into a $70,000 job. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about the program and the people,” he said.
During the visit, Lackawanna College President Mark Volk touted the industry-education partnership that has been a cornerstone of the School of Petroleum & Natural Gas. The College has received in-kind donations of equipment and other resources from a number of energy-related businesses, including a $2.5 million gift from Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation in April 2014. That gift specifically represents a $1 million endowment and $1.5 million dedicated to the purchase of state-of-the-art equipment, training, staff and faculty development, and student interactive experiences and internships.
School of Petroleum & Natural Gas Executive Director Richard Marquardt added that many students receive job offers at the end of their second semester at Lackawanna.
The College expects to welcome nearly 140 students at the start of the Fall 2014 semester thanks, in part, to the introduction of two new degree programs – Petroleum and Natural Gas Measurement and Petroleum and Natural Gas Business Administration.
Toomey told Volk and Marquardt that Lackawanna is filling a crucial void in training that allows Pennsylvanians to capitalize on the job opportunities available because of the blossoming industry.