Chevron Funds STEM Initiative in Appalachia

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Chevron Corp. has given the Appalachia Partnership Initiative $20 million to build up an under-supplied labor force and includes funding for an energy lab in Bethlehem-Center School District.

Nigel Hearne, president of Chevron Appalachia, understands the region’s growing need for a qualified workforce in the oil and gas and manufacturing arenas. Workers in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math – STEM – are a much needed commodity in the region. Hearne’s energy company, says Rick Shrum, writing for the Observer-Reporter, and three non-profits in the region have partnered to get the initiative started.

Twenty-seven counties in Southwestern Pennsylvania, Northern West Virginia, and Eastern Ohio, that are in the gas-rich Marcellus and Utica shale territory, will be the sites of the workforce development. Dennis Yablonsky, chief executive officer of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, said:

“This initiative is a big opportunity for all of us who care about the region’s students, workers and economic prosperity,” Yablonsky said. “There is a shortage in the region of candidates with strong STEM skills.The bulk of jobs do not require a four-year degree, but they do need STEM skills.”

After a workforce analysis report in 2012, which was conducted by the Allegheny Conference, the initiative had its start. It was determined that 14 job-types, and not all in gas and oil, were in tremendous need but had few workers to supply the labor force. Three types of workers were in particular need – roustabouts, mechatronic workers, and welders.

Some of the Chevron support will be used in the Elizabeth Forward School District and projects with Carnegie Mellon University. Also, ShaleNet, an oil and gas-related training program, will be provided with funding for scholarships at four community colleges in the Tri-State area and for Project Lead the Way, a K-12 STEM program in the same area.

“We want to improve education,” Hearne said, “because an educated workforce leads to economic growth.

It was after Chevron Corp. purchased Atlas Energy’s assets and gas reserves near Pittsburgh in 2011 for $3.7 billion that Chevron began considering how to attain a philanthropic entity in the area where it was about to become a major part of the Marcellus Shale boom, reports Joyce Gannon of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Chevron partnered with the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, a Pittsburgh-based charitable fund established by the mega-fortunes of Michael Benedum. A good choice, since both Chevron and the Benedum Foundation agreed in the importance of education and workforce-training in the areas where Chevron was about to do business – southwestern Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The Rand Corp. will track the progress of the program and the Allegheny Conference on Community Development will assist with training.

In a press release posted by the Chevron Corp., the company explained its commitment.

“Chevron is committed to building lasting relationships and creating prosperity in the Tri-State area and in every region where we operate,” said Rhonda Zygocki, executive vice president of Policy and Planning for Chevron Corporation. “Our success is deeply linked to the region’s progress, and we are proud to launch this long-term initiative to address critical STEM education and workforce development needs in the Tri-State area.”