Lackawanna College School of Petroleum & Natural Gas President Speaks Before Congress

In April, Cabot announced its largest philanthropic endeavor in the company’s 125+ year history, the establishment of a $2.5 million endowment for Lackawanna College School of Petroleum & Natural Gas. Since the announcement, college president Mark Volk has taken every opportunity possible to promote the school as a first-in-class program that is not only a great entrance into the oil & gas industry but a life-changing for opportunity for many of its students.

Here’s Volk discussing the college on Platts Energy Week with Bill Loveless:

Speaking before Congress

Most recently Volk accepted honor of going before Congress, specifically a subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, to discuss Lackawanna College’s role in training students to fill the growing need for American energy jobs.

During his remarks, Volk gave an overview of how school officials created the program, describing how they visited schools throughout the country with similar programs, collaborated with gas industry companies and hired instructors from the industry.

“What we have successfully built in Susquehanna County should serve a model for how educational institutions can, through innovation and collaboration with the industry, respond to the needs of a changing economic landscape and create entirely new job prospects for students,

We then forged ahead on our own to physically and academically start a program from scratch. We evaluated the region’s labor resources and determined that the needs for qualified petroleum and natural gas field technologists and compression technicians in Eastern Pennsylvania were very high –and positioned only to get higher – due to the lack of any existing oil and gas operations in the area. We then tailored our Petroleum & Natural Gas Technology Associates of Science degree to address this need. We created a draft curriculum and shared it with several major exploration and production (E & P) and service companies throughout the state, and the n incorporated their feedback in to the initial program. Industry representatives also committed to working with the College to periodically review and revise the program as needs changed and as the industry developed.

With industry consultation, we determined that companies needed technicians in the field who possessed practical, experienced-based, skills learned through exposure to industry-experienced professionals in addition to the knowledge acquired in learning traditional academic subject matter. Based on this feedback, our faculty developed a curriculum that includes traditional classroom work as well as extensive field time and required Internships. Coupled with fundamental, general and petroleum engineering materials, subject matter courses were carefully reviewed and implemented. With this in mind, the College aggressively sought and intentionally hired faculty from industry, including experienced engineers and professionals, rather than the traditional halls of academia.

Our results speak for themselves. 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. Not just family-sustaining-wage positions, but jobs that are reigniting the American Dream of providing better opportunities for our children.”

Here is a highlight from Volk’s testimony focusing on the burgeoning partnership with Cabot:

The industry has taken notice – and responded. Just a few months ago, Lackawanna College and Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation announced a unique collaboration, with Cabot making an investment of $2.5 Million in our School of Petroleum & Natural Gas – $ 1 million to grow our endowment, and $1.5 million toward equipment, internships and other support. Cabot’s contribution not only enhances the financial strength of the College, it also provides future funding to help offset the tuition for economically challenged students. It ensures that our students will have opportunities to work with the latest technologies in use – a key factor in our school keeping pace with the dynamic technological developments that define America’s energy industry.”

Pictures of the new outdoor lab established as part of Cabot's endowment

Other established and esteemed programs form across the country

Duane Hrncir, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, Utah, echoed the need for these programs and the growth of students who are enrolling saying:

“enrollment is growing at about 5% spurred largely by our reputation for providing strong technical skills with leadership opportunities.” Hrncir touted the school’s “98% placement rate” for graduates and how it is “one of the top ten schools in the country for return on investment for a college education” when the “average starting salary of our baccalaureate graduates is over $62,000” – well above the national average.  Underscoring the need for institutions like the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Hrncir added, “through research and teaching, universities like the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology are advancing knowledge and preparing leaders in science and engineering for American industry, including the booming energy industry that surrounds the upper mid-west.”

Matthew M. Kropf, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Petroleum Technology and Energy Science and Technology at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, called education:

“the single factor responsible for enabling the current energy boom” adding that there is a “significant need for skilled oil and gas workers to replace an aging workforce.” In order to meet the demands of a growing energy industry, Kropf told the Subcommittee that the University of Pittsburgh has “updated the curriculum to include courses pertinent to today’s energy field, namely advanced drilling and completions technologies and geology of sedimentary shale basins.” Kropf agreed with other witnesses that “the current energy boom has created significant educational opportunities in both the short and long term.”

Seth N. Lyman, Ph.D.,Director of the Bingham Entrepreneurship and Energy Research Center at Utah State University, added that the:

“recent growth in oil and natural gas production has created unique challenges and opportunities for the institutions of higher education that serve our region.” Recognizing the community’s recent increase in the demand for higher education and oil and gas development, Utah State University now offers “38 degrees to more than 1,000 students who attend the Uintah Basin Campus” while adding “specific training programs to further support the oil and gas industry: petroleum engineering, safety, and well-control, to name a few” at the Uintah Basin Applied Technical College.

Marlene S. McMichael, CPM, is the Associate Vice Chancellor of Government Affairs at Texas State Technical College (TSTC). McMichael highlighted how TSTC has the

“will and the capacity to train students to fill the growing demand for skilled workers.” The energy industry plays a significant role in Texas’ economy.  McMichael added that “Texas has been a leader in the energy sector; however, recent growth in that sector has been exponential. That means skilled workers from all backgrounds will have access to a wide array of jobs. TSTC’s partnerships with industry ensure that students graduate with job-ready skills which match or exceed industry standards.”

The Outlook for American Energy Jobs is Bright

Many people don’t realize that companies like Cabot expect to be in Pennsylvania for decades developing Marcellus Shale wells and because of the prolific nature of these wells it is unknown at this time just how long each will produce – experts predict upwards of four to five decades. With an outlook like this, Lackawanna College School of Petroleum & Natural Gas will be producing exceptional graduates for generations to come. Cabot is proud to partner with Lackawanna College School of Petroleum & Natural Gas!

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Bill desRosiers

Raised in Highland Falls, New York, William desRosiers learned about responsible resource development, firsthand, as a part of his family's mining business. William received his B.S. in Management, B.A.in History and MBA from Misericordia University. He currently serves in External Affairs for Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation. His primary responsibilities include strengthening media relationships, managing company-run fundraising programs, building better community relations and representing Cabot every chance he has.

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