Marcellus Offers Opportunity for Local Veterans

In addition to local economic benefits of shale gas drilling, it seems that for veterans, too, this boom has created the opportunity for employment.

Many military men and women are accustomed to long hours, often in extreme conditions or operating heavy equipment. So it's a natural transition that veterans returning home to Pennsylvania might pursue similar work upon their return, where the Marcellus Shale formation underlays about 60 percent of the state.

Scott Grady of Pittsburgh's Veterans Leadership Program has worked with about 20 veterans hired for jobs in the shale industry over the past two years. He cited veterans' "intangible" skills, such as a respect and knowledge of safety procedures, discipline and an accelerated learning curve as further proof the industry is a good match.

"I think the talent pool is here," he said. "I think they are out there and they can fill a lot of jobs with a little bit of training."

That includes a four-week shale gas training course, a required introduction into the way rigs are operated. It's offered at community colleges and adult learning centers in the area; at least two local training centers bundle this training and a commercial driver's license course for $7,000. The Veterans Leadership Program provides grants to help offset that cost, and the GI Bill covers many training courses.

"Your options are to go sit in a college classroom and go to school for four years and get a bachelor's degree -- or you could go to a four-week training program," Mr. Grady said. "I wish I would have had that option."

Shale jobs include various operators for drilling and hydraulic fracturing teams. Truck drivers are needed to haul waste water and equipment, as well as welders and workers to operate rigs and tend wells. Most careers are field-based.