Grant Funds Training Welders for Shale Industry
BOARDMAN, Ohio – It wasn't your typical ribbon-cutting ceremony, particularly since there was no ribbon.
Instead, officials used a more appropriate material: a six-foot long steel pipe they cut into sections to celebrate an award of $130,530 in grant money for the training of a new generation of welders for the oil and gas industry.
“The best thing is that it is to get welders in this industry,” said Butch Taylor, president of Local 396 of the Plumbers & Pipefitters Union. "It's to give them the ability get into downhill welding or out on the job sites."
Taylor and Martin Loney, training director of Local 396, joined U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-17 Ohio, Jackie Stewart, representing the office of U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-6 Ohio, Jason Wilson, the governor's director of Appalachia, Kathy Zook of the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, and Tracee Joltes of Eastern Gateway Community College, to announce the grant.
Half of the grant, about $65,000, comes from the Appalachian Regional Commission, a federal program that awards money for projects in Appalachia. Both Ryan and Johnson supported the funding in Congress. The application was filed through Eastgate Regional Council of Governments on behalf of the Plumbers & Pipefitters.
The other half of the grant was provided through local matching funds.
The impact of oil and gas exploration in the Utica and Marcellus shale cannot be overstated, Taylor said, noting his membership is working at full capacity because of the work the industry provides.
"We were 30% to 40% unemployment, with little or no future," he said of his membership just more than a year ago. "As this industry came into effect, we have full employment and it looks like there isn't any layoffs or downsides for a long time. This is something we really relish."
As oil and gas wells come online, the need to construct pipeline infrastructure is likely to increase substantially, Taylor said. This grant helps prepare members of Local 396 for these jobs.
"This is a start," Taylor said.
The grant provides training opportunities for prospective welders through the Plumbers & Pipefitters and Eastern Gateway Community College. Taylor said that the idea is to fine-tune and upgrade welders' skills so they can meet the demands of the oil and gas market.
Downhill welders, Taylor said, could earn compensation of $70,000 to $100,000 a year. "Because of the unique skill level and demand, these are high-paying jobs," he said.
The grant money could help train 60 new welders over the next year, according to the application.
Wilson said the grant is a "good example of how we can work together, across party lines, federal and state government, to give people an opportunity to go to work."
The Appalachian district director said that through his travels across the state, he's observed that the bulk of oil and gas exploration is in Carroll County. "I think part of it is coming our way, Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull," he said. "Take a drive. You can see this industry growing."
Johnson, unable to attend Monday's ceremonies because of a flight delay, said in a statement that the grant "will provide the means to develop a program that will provide the skills and knowledge to train the people of the Mahoning Valley to compete in the global marketplace and encourage job creation and retention right here in eastern Ohio."
The congressmen stressed his appreciation for Local 396 and partnering with Congressman Ryan to see that the grant was secured.
“Part of the oil and gas play is to have a workforce that is trained up, and the skills needed for the companies that are coming in,” Ryan said after the press event. “This grant is going to allow our local workforce to be trained and able to deal with these investments that are going to be made.”
Ryan emphasized that it's vital that public investments such as these grants continue to encourage and support new workforce initiatives.
“We need the public side to help support the private side,” he said. “There are a lot of opportunities in industries like this. We've just got to make sure people are trained.”
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