CCAC gets grant to train rig workers

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After Training Coordinator Francis “Kip” Deleonibus announced Community College of Allegheny County’s first training program for Marcellus Shale roustabouts, he received 130 responses.

With his second class slated to start in the spring, he expects a similar response. But this time he has a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to pay for the program.

“We were just named as a training provider Sept. 1 and we’ll be under the direction of the hub at Westmoreland County Community College. This means the training curriculum will be uniform,” he said. “Plus, it’s free. This grant will pay for the entire class. CCAC ate the cost of the first one.”

Roustabouts are the folks who actually work on the drilling rigs, keeping them working smoothly and safely. It’s hard work, but it pays well between—$30,000 and $40,000—and the training takes only three weeks.

To facilitate steering applicants to the closest training program, and to weed out people who really aren’t interested or who can’t meet the industry requirements, the coordinated training begins by filling out a questionnaire at http://www.shalenet.org.

“The first five questions should let you know if this is for you,” said Deleonibus. “The website is very well prepared, and Shalenet tracks everything. We not only provide training but resume preparation, interviewing skills, small group communications, working with others, and at the end of it we bring in the employers to meet with the graduates—we don’t just send you on your way and say, ‘good luck.’”

Deleonibus said of the 130 people who showed an initial interest in the training, several decided that having to haul 80 pounds of equipment over rugged terrain in all kinds of weather wasn’t for them. Still more did not want to go through drug testing and a criminal background check.

“We ended up with about 75 who did the background check. We chose the cleanest to go forward. They took drug tests and left us about 30,” he said. “Then they took a series of aptitude tests; identifying tools, assembling fasteners, etc. We ended up with 10 people who finished the course. Nine of them we found jobs for, the final guy we’re still working with.”

The training almost mimicked an actual 12-hour workday in the field starting at 7 a.m. and running to 5 p.m., but it could not mimic the two-weeks-on, two-weeks-off schedule that roustabouts work.

“Families need to know that these workers will be gone for two weeks at a time,” said Deleonibus. “As soon as guys from this last class were hired, some were shipped off to New York or Oklahoma for more training.”

All applicants need initially are 10th-grade reading and math skills, good hand-eye coordination, and the willingness to work long hours. In return, they will not only earn jobs after training, but will be certified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to operate specialized equipment including rough terrain fork lifts and “man lifts.” They will also be certified in CPR and in the use of portable defibrillators.

Deleonibus said the next class would be starting up in the early spring. Due to the amount of hands-on training required, the maximum size is about 15 people. Anyone interested should go the ShaleNET site, select the “connect with opportunities” menu, and fill out the “entry level, high priority occupations” questionnaire.

“I have folks from Advance Oilfield Service in Canonsburg calling me every month looking for people. So we’re putting out the message at all the CCAC campuses and we’ll be scheduling information sessions,” he said. “And this training is totally paid for by the grant. It’s free.”

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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