Gas class students eye jobs

With the hope of landing a high-paying, stable job in the burgeoning natural gas industry, 24 men embarked Monday morning on their first industry course at Lackawanna College in New Milford.

The course, Introduction to the Oil and Gas Industry taught by Larry Milliken, is the first class in a two-year Natural Gas Technology curriculum. The program was introduced by the college at the Susquehanna County center in 2009.
Milliken spent his career working in the industry all over the country – from exploration and mineral development to working as an oil and gas land man.
“(Lackawanna College) set up this program to help people from this area find a career in the natural gas industry,” Milliken said. “It’s a diverse background of people and ages coming in to this class.”
Joshua Houck, 26, of Great Bend, said his curiosity about the natural gas industry motivated him to take the class. “I’m going to try to get a good job afterwards,” he said.
Al Bisner, 28, of New Milford, felt the same way. Bisner, returned to the Susquehanna County area after serving in the U.S. Army.
Bisner has spent his working career self-employed in the plumbing and heating field but decided he could make more money working for the gas industry.
He said he is worried about the rural area becoming more like a “big city” but figured natural gas development is here to stay and wanted “to get in on the ground floor.”
Brad Seward, of Lake Winola, said he was taking the class in hopes of making a career change.
Toward the end of the first session, Milliken said to the class, “You, your kids and even their kids will be able to make careers in the natural gas industry.”
New Milford’s Brent Crane said, “This is where the money is going to be. It’s here to stay.”
Upon completion of the program, students will earn an Associate in Science degree.
The students hit the ground running as Milliken explained some of the items they would need for the term, including an engineering calculator, hard hat and safety glasses.
He also advised purchasing steel toed boots and earplugs for drill-site field trips. “Everything in this industry is heavy and hard,” he said.
He also went over common industry terms that would be used in the class, defining a British thermal unit (Btu); U.S. barrel (42 gallons); and cubic feet (the measurement gas is priced and sold by).
Milliken said students in the program needed to know three things about working in the gas industry.
“You better be sober when you show up for work,” Milliken said. He explained the companies performed random drug testing and had a zero tolerance policy for those who tested positive. “Fail once and you’re done.”
He also said the companies were looking for reliable workers. “They’re going to trust $100 million worth of investments to you. Reliability is as important as everything you’re going to learn in these two years.”
Milliken also advised the students to keep a clean driving record, stating the companies look at people with bad records as being careless.
Rounding out the first day of class, students were given a brief overview of the oil and gas industry and the historical and political driving forces that shape the current business.
Citing America’s dependence and addiction to energy consumption, Milliken likened the U.S. oil imports to “mortgaging your house to your worse enemy.”
“There is a price to pay for this dependence,” he said. “History shows clearly – he who has the oil has the power.”
Milliken told the class that natural gas is a bridge fuel that could help the paradigm shift back into more domestic production of energy over the next 50 years.