Work is underway at the former Thomas’ Supermarket building in Tunkhannock Township (top) for its renovation into a new School of Petroleum & Natural Gas for Lackawanna College. Working with an oscilloscope, which graphically displays varying signal voltages, are School of PNG students (from right) Victoria Clark of Springville, Jared Perdikis of Swoyersville, Giovanni Caparo of Jefferson Township, and Anthony Dolfini with technical instructor Gary Leber (left).
The Lackawanna College School of Petroleum & Natural Gas (LC PNG), which opened near New Milford in Susquehanna County in 2010, will relocate to Tunkhannock in Wyoming County in time for the fall semester of 2021. Renovations are underway at the former Thomas’ Supermarket in the Tioga West Plaza along business Route 6 for a facility that will more than double the school’s current class size.
“The new facility, including a state-of-the art laboratory and industry equipment will enable growth unavailable at our current site,” said Lackawanna College president Jill Murray. As enrollment at the school continued to climb, so too did the need to diversify the curriculum and offer more courses.
“We have outgrown this, and we need more space,” LC PNG program director Sue Gumble explained from her current office. The lab at the school will expand from approximately 2,000 to 5,000 square feet. There will also be an equipment yard nearby where apparatus will be stored as it is moved in and out of the labs for instruction. A lot of equipment that is currently outside the classroom modules at New Milford will be taken inside for dismantling and reassembly.
“This will allow for more hands-on training for students,” Gumble explained, adding that compressed air lines in the labs can be hooked up to the machinery to demonstrate how it functions. “If the piece doesn’t work, they will have an opportunity for trouble-shooting.”
PNG school faculty are hopeful that the current COVID situation will have abated by next year so the school can be opened to full capacity. If not, they are prepared to enhance already planned safety features and will still be in a better position to safely accommodate more students. “It will make it easier to adapt to COVID guidelines,” Gumble related. “We currently have 25 students in a class, so we have to split them into two classes. There, we will be able to spread them out in one class.”
In addition to more space, school administrators feel that the Tunkhannock Township location is more central to the pool of students they want to attract. “This will make us equally accessible to students in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties, as well as Bradford, Sullivan and Susquehanna,” Gumble remarked. “Plus it’s so close to where most of the industry is, including Cabot, Southwestern (SWN) and Williams. It will make it a lot easier to get industry people in to lecture.”
“This is good news for the natural gas industry as the School of PNG has been key in providing Southwestern Energy with trained interns and employees,” said Mike Narcavage, senior government and community relations manager for SWN. “Southwestern Energy is a strong supporter of the school, and we anticipate that to continue into the future.”
“We are thrilled to see how much the School of PNG has grown and matured in the past six years,” George Stark, external affairs director for Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation stated. “Lackawanna College has become an educational force in Northeast PA, and we know this move will give them opportunity to expand both their physical presence as well as their programs and offerings.”
The two-year program, which maintains a balance between book work, hands-on lab time, and field trips to gas-related facilities, includes a summer internship between the first and second year. While the curriculum at the school is constantly evolving to keep up with technical advances in the gas industry, companies from as far away as Illinois and Kentucky have been contacting the school because they too are in need of freshly-trained employees.
“Lackawanna College is beyond proud of the exceptional education our School of PNG provides to help individuals obtain quality jobs in the petroleum and natural gas industry, and the move to Tunkhannock will help us expand our training opportunities,” Murray stated. “We are also excited to extend our curriculum into new areas unrelated to the petroleum and natural gas industry, such as business and human services.” Lackawanna College also offers flexibility with both in-person and online classes.
As the curriculum expands, some classes may begin at the new location as early as the spring semester, at which time there will also be a public ribbon cutting. Currently enrolled PNG students will stay put until next year as the equipment with which they are currently working can’t be moved until the end of the school year.
For more information about Lackawanna College’s PNG program, interested readers may log on to https://www.lackawanna.edu/academics/school-of-petroleum-and-natural-gas/
Classmates in the current PNG 185 Engine Mechanics class include (above, from left) Jack Symeon of Shavertown, Mike Stewart of Johnson City, NY, and Devin Lyke of Dunmore.