Training the Next Generation

In a vocational agriculture course at Bradford High School, students are using a CD-based Cooperative Extension short course to learn about gas well drilling and private water supplies.

“McKean County is located over one of the largest pools of oil and natural gas in Pennsylvania,” says teacher Sam Heyler. “Oil has been in the blood of Bradford people since the mid 1800s.” In 1975 the high school started a petroleum production class to support the oil boom, and when that boom fizzled in the late 1980s the class was closed. “Now,” says Heyler, “employers are coming back and saying they need new people for the workforce. People are coming from all over the country to work in the oil and gas industry.”

Because of the new Marcellus shale gas rush, Bradford High School has brought back its petroleum production class, and Heyler is using the CD course to deliver research-based information to his students. “The Marcellus shale is going to create new jobs. And this computer course has a tremendous amount of information that is not only valuable to landowners, it gives these students a background on the water quality and environmental issues that go along with natural gas drilling.

“Future workers need to be trained for the gas industry, and this extension program gives the students education they’ll need when they go out on the job. As an educator, I don’t have time to develop curriculum. So when extension produces something I can take right to the classroom, it’s great. If it comes from extension, I know it’s done right. I can tap into what extension professionals are doing, with the added advantage that this program was developed specifically with the natural gas boom in mind and is tailored to our area.”