BOARDMAN - A grant announced Monday should help train workers for the Marcellus and Utica Shale drilling industry.
Members of the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 396 gathered at their weld shop in Boardman to officially announce the $137,000 grant. U.S. Rep. Timothy J. Ryan and a representative of Congressman Bill Johnson were in attendance.
The union has been training welders for more than 12 years and the funds will allow them to provide advanced training that will provide the skills necessary to enter the drilling industry.
''We're at the point for us to partner up with the gas companies and many other facets in the shale industry,'' said Local 396 business manager Butch Taylor. ''We've been reaching and proactive and these are the stepping stones.''
The $65,265 matching grant comes through the Appalachian Regional Commission and will provide funds to train 60 welders per year for five years, more than 10 foremen per year, retain 135 jobs per year and create at least five new jobs.
The union applied for the federal grant about eight months ago through Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, the metropolitan planning organization for Trumbull, Mahoning,Columbiana and Ashtabula counties, and also received support from the Regional Chamber, Ryan and Johnson.
Local 396 also is partnering with Eastern Gateway Community College, which Taylor said is the ''clearance house'' for people that may be interested. Details of the partnership are still be worked out, but the program is aimed at experienced welders who need to learn new skills specific to pipe welding in the gas and oil well drilling industry.
"The trick is that the industry really has some strong demands for training. They want professionals," said Vince Bevacqua, executive vice president at ShaleComm.
"People with a background in welding need to refine their skills so they're at the proper level for the industry," he said.
Bevacqua said the industry standard starting salary for the job is $70,000.
Ryan, D-Niles, said in a release that oil and gas producers are expected to bring $34 billion into the state by 2015, and that Local 396 has invested more than $2 million in their training center, where they have trained more than 200 people in the plumbing and welding industry in the last 10 years.
"Local 396 should be commended for their leadership in securing this grant and making this training a reality. The oil and gas industry has great potential for the Mahoning Valley, and we need to have a work force ready to encourage job creation and retention in this growing industry," Ryan said.
Johnson, R-Marietta, noted in a statement that many of the welders who will be trained are currently displaced and developmental welders.
"Because of the collaboration of everyone on this stage - we are here today to celebrate this announcement and how this grant will create and retain good paying jobs in the oil and gas field right here in the Mahoning Valley," Johnson said.