Above, NTIEC educational coordinator and administrative teams leader Debbie Tierney and LC PNG program director Sue Gumble (foreground left and right) address visitors to school during a recent evening open house event. Below, instructor Jim Phillips talks to guests while his students work on troubleshooting challenges.
About a dozen area high school students and their parents recently participated in an open house at the Lackawanna College School of Petroleum & Natural Gas (LC PNG) in Tunkhannock. Over the course of two hours, they were able to visit various classrooms and labs, sit in on active classes, and talk with teachers, administrators, and a second-year student who has a job waiting for him.
Several guests already had a vested interest in the two-year programs and additional certification options offered, and the interest of others was sparked by the promise of hands-on opportunities and the potential to graduate immediately into family-sustaining jobs in the gas and oil fields.
The Northern Tier Industry & Education Consortium (NTIEC), whose mission it is to match local students with available jobs and guide them to programs and financial resources that will help both students and companies achieve their goals, coordinated the event.
An endowment from Coterra helped to establish the school a decade ago. Financial and material assistance from many others in the industry have helped it grow and move to its present location in Tunkhannock.
NTIEC educational coordinator and administrative teams leader Debbie Tierney and LC PNG program director Sue Gumble provided welcoming remarks and led the tour. Gumble was an early graduate of the PNG program and was asked upon completion of the program to tutor and then teach new students. She told those in attendance on Dec. 1 that, likewise, every student can find their own path to their natural gas career.
Tierney and Gumble assured the visitors that the natural gas business will be in the area for many years to come, noting the that the lifespan of a well is 40 to 60 years, and the drilling is far from complete. Paid internships are part of the program, and job placement for graduates is nearly 100 percent. “The companies actually do come here and fight over our students to get them to come and work for them,” Gumble stated. “We don’t have enough students to fill the positions. I don’t know of any (former student) who’s not working.”
From the classroom where she teaches An Introduction to Natural Gas, Gumble took them to a simulation lab that was sponsored by gas companies during the height of the pandemic when they could not visit active gas sites. “If you like gaming, you’ll love this,” Sue said of the PCs and trouble-shooting software on which students usually work in pairs or as teams. There are national competitions for simulated trouble shooting, and Gumble hopes to send a team from Tunkhannock next year.
Tourgoers were asked to briefly describe their backgrounds and their reason for attending the event. Zoey, a sophomore from Lackawanna Trail is interested in welding and attended NTIEC’s Gas & Oilfield Experience last summer. Jonas, a junior from Wilkes-Barre said, “I like being outside and getting my hands dirty.” Chase, a senior at Tunkhannock, has yet to make final post-graduation plans but was impressed by the amount of equipment in the mechanics lab and the focus on hands-on learning. So was his mother, Christina.
“I was unfamiliar with the petroleum and natural gas industry, but I do feel that the tour was very informative,” Christina said afterward. “I saw a lot of current students smiling, which is always a good sign.”
“Our students and teachers love to be here,” Gumble told the group. “We become a family, and students stay in touch after they graduate.”
Tom Evans from Wilkes-Barre will graduate in May 2022 and already has a job lined up via his internship. He’s seen the vast improvements in the program since the LC PNG school moved from its smaller confines in New Milford. In his address to the students, he commented on the add-on certifications offered, such as OSHA, CPR, hydrogen sulfide safety and even one for Snap-On Tools that can be beneficial in a variety of fields.
“You want to make yourself more employable,” Tierney said of the importance of including the extra courses on one’s resume.
“The hands-on approach is so very needed for some students,” said Wyoming County commissioner Ernie King, who was also in attendance. Speaking from the perspective of a former auto repair shop owner, he added. “An energetic person today can do far better with a trade than they can starting life with a huge college debt.”
As the Open House wound down, parents and students were already asking Gumble about enrollment in the school and registering with Tierney for the NTIEC’s Summer Energy & Oilfield Career Experience.
For more information about the Lackawanna College School of Petroleum & Natural Gas (LC PNG) in Tunkhannock, interested readers can log on to www.lackawanna.edu/degree/the-school-of-petroleum-natural-gas/. To learn more about internships, externships and the Summer Energy & Oilfield Career Experience, log on to www.ntiec.com.