West Virginia Department of Commerce Chemical Plant Operators

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Chemical Plant Operators

Now Hiring: Chemical Plant Operators

A cracker is only the beginning.

Once a cracker is built in the region, West Virginia will be positioned to attract additional manufacturers and plastic converters that will create thousands of jobs over many generations. The opportunity for wealth creation and economic growth in West Virginia goes far beyond one or even two cracker facilities. The opportunity is there to create an industrial hub composed of manufacturing, research, and innovation never seen before.

Now Hiring: Chemical Plant Operators

“This isn’t occurring in a place where chemical manufacturing is foreign,” said Kris Hopkins of the West Virginia Development Office. “It’s happening in a state that was largely built on chemical innovations. We have all the pieces to build something special. The ingenuity, the know-how, and the pure will to build a lasting impact for multiple generations will set us apart.”

It takes 450 jobs to put in one natural gas well in West Virginia, and 150 occupations are associated with those jobs, according to a study commissioned by the West Virginia Department of Education to look at job skills and job creation for the Marcellus shale industry.

More than 90 percent of the jobs created by the development of a well are associated with the pre-drilling and drilling phases. These jobs are not permanent in the sense that they “disappear” once each well is completed. Fortunately, because drilling in the Marcellus Shale is expected to last decades, the employed workforce simply moves to the next well. There’s also potential in drilling both the Utica Shale and the Huron Shale.

Many of the jobs created by the natural gas industry will require unique, specific experience and skills, including engineers, geologists, IT , welders and technicians. This presents both a challenge and opportunity for West Virginia: to build a workforce to meet industry requirements via appropriate training and education.

American Chemistry Council President Cal Dooley says it will be up to the state’s educators to make students even in middle school aware of the career potential in the chemical and manufacturing industries here.

Now Hiring: Chemical Plant Operators

“We do require a lot of engineers or people that have math and science skills, and we need people who have the management and operational skill set, people who can be trusted with some very critical job responsibilities,” he said. “I think West Virginia’s leaders have done a terrific job in demonstrating to the broader chemical industry that they’re prepared to utilize their academic institutions to help ensure that they are producing the skill set, providing the curriculum and the training, to really meet the needs of what will be rapidly developing industry in the state.”

The state’s community and technical colleges and tech centers are working to develop skill sets and ways for students to be able to access the needed jobs in the gas industry and also to help connect companies with students to do

those jobs. There are already programs in place at several schools.

“Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College and WVU at Parkersburg both have implemented chemical process technology programs,” said Jim Skidmore, chancellor of the West Virginia Council for Community and Technical Education. “A cracker plant will need chemical operators and maintenance technicians. We also have electrical engineering technology and mechanical engineering technology programs. These are more hands-on than fouryear engineering programs, and graduates will be in high demand for the jobs a cracker plant will bring.”

Five community colleges in the system also offer two-year degrees in mechatronics technology. These technicians will be able to fill needs in both the natural gas and manufacturing industries. “All manufacturing facilities employ these multi-skilled technicians,” Skidmore said. “They keep the plants running by repairing equipment and taking care of the computerized processes.”

Pierpont and Northern Community Colleges have been actively working with employers and economic development groups to provide training to meet workforce needs for the expanding Marcellus Shale industry. Pierpont started training in 2006 following a needs assessment on the oil and gas industry and has trained nearly 400 people in a Floorhand class. The class focuses on operational requirements for working on a drill rig, as well as basic safety practices.

Karen Price
“This is a very exciting time to be in West Virginia...
We’re on the verge of a boom in economic development.”

— Karen Price
West Virginia Manufacturers Association

Northern and Pierpont are also members of the ShaleNet Consortium consisting of eight community colleges in Southwest Pennsylvania, Northern West Virginia and Eastern Ohio created to respond to workforce needs of the Marcellus industry. ShaleNet has worked extensively with employers in the industry to develop and validate curriculum. While the immediate needs have focused on drilling operations, both Pierpont and Northern are actively exploring other needs of the industry, including land management, inspection and maintenance.

“I wish I were 20 years younger, because this is a very exciting time to be in West Virginia,” said Karen Price of the West Virginia Manufacturers Association. “If you look at what’s happening with the Marcellus Shale, along with the development of the Boy Scout summit in southern West Virginia, and the coal mining that will continue to be part of the economy for years to come, we’re on the verge of a boom in economic development.”

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