by Michele Claybrook-Lucas, Director, Corporate Solutions Programming
The natural gas industry has helped to fill an increasing supply of energy needed to heat homes, cook food and generate electricity. This increased production and distribution of natural gas has created and expanded a market of job opportunities nationally, in Pennsylvania and in the Philadelphia region, providing additional career options for residents and another economic boost for our area.
On February 20, 2017, Community College of Philadelphia successfully launched its first cohort for the Gas Distribution Pipeline Mechanic Program. This program was created by PECO in partnership with the Collegiate Consortium for Workforce and Economic Development to meet the increased demand for skilled labor in the gas supply and distribution industry. Program goals were to develop technical training to bolster the local gas workforce. The Collegiate Consortium consists of Bucks County Community College, Camden County College, Community College of Philadelphia, Delaware County Community College, Montgomery County Community College and Drexel University.
This collective input resulted in the creation of a hands-on program comprised of contextualized foundational proficiencies and technical skills essential to preparing students for entry-level employment in the natural gas industry.
A curriculum for the program was developed through a coordinated effort led by the Consortium and PECO, and was supported by Philadelphia Gas Works, Henkels & McCoy, and Utility Line Services. This collective input resulted in the creation of a hands-on program comprised of contextualized foundational proficiencies and technical skills essential to preparing students for entry-level employment in the natural gas industry. Students learn how to perform tasks needed to install and maintain pipelines for natural gas distribution systems serving residential, commercial and industrial customers. The program includes 140 classroom hours plus 50 hours for operator qualification. Classes are facilitated by industry practitioners, PECO employees and the National Gas Association (NGA). Topics covered include: workplace safety, first aid and technical skills, in addition to an established NGA curriculum. Training combines classroom and hands-on exposure to tools and processes commonly used in the natural gas industry. Due to its physical demands, students take field trips to see the work in progress. The allure of high-salary employment is counterbalanced by the ability to endure working in various climates, lifting at least 100 pounds and operating heavy equipment.
Students are given a realistic picture of this industry during multiple Open Houses sponsored by Corporate Solutions to generate interest in the program. Corporate Solutions collaborated with Philadelphia Works to identify and test potential students. PECO and PGW included marketing mailers with client invoices and posted program information on their respective social media sites to support program recruiting efforts. PECO provided subject-matter experts to facilitate portions of the training, purchased tools and donated equipment to the College for use in the classroom and beyond, to show the program’s importance in developing their future workforce. The College, industry partners and Philadelphia Works together sought to prepare residents for jobs in an industry that pays sustainable wages.
Our collective efforts yielded a class of nine students of whom eight completed the program on May 15. All students received OSHA and CPR certification, and all achieved various levels of the national certification required for this field. A job fair was held for these students featuring seven employers, including PECO, PGW, Henkels & McCoy, Utility Line Services, Miller Brothers, Danella, and Riggs Distler. Students are currently interviewing for positions with each of these firms. Bucks County Community College is scheduled to offer the Gas Distribution Pipeline Program at the conclusion of our program, followed by Montgomery County Community College.
Thanks to equipment donated by PECO to the College, we are now able to offer this program multiple times during the year. Corporate Solutions continues to work with Philadelphia Works to develop contextualized skill building that will prepare more residents for entry into Gas Distribution Pipeline Mechanic and similar technical training.