By DONALD GILLILAND
When the gas men appeared at her parents’ organic dairy farm near Wyalusing in Bradford County, Tara Hoyt was suspicious.
“I was concerned about the possible impact on our farm,” she said. “I started researching everything.”
At the time, she was a communications major at Wilkes University.
Today she works in the gas industry.
“The more I read, the more interested I became,” Hoyt said.
She decided overnight to transfer out of Wilkes University to a brand-new program at Lackawanna College geared specifically toward the gas industry.
Two days after graduation this spring, Hoyt began working as a gas tech for Williams Midstream Services, which runs gathering pipelines from Marcellus wells to transmission lines.
“She wears a hard hat every day, flame-retardant clothing, steel-toed boots and she gets greasy,” said Williams General Manager Ryan Savage.
It’s not glamorous work, but increasingly it’s work that is open to women.
Savage said Williams has been making a concerted effort to hire more women.
“It’s 50 percent of the population,” he said. “You’ve got to open the doors.”
Hoyt has one message for “the young women still in school: don’t be intimidated.”
“I know some of the men were not thrilled at working with me,” she said. “They assumed I was afraid to get dirty. I showed them I was capable. … I bring my own strength to the job.”
Hoyt is not alone. She is part of the burgeoning growth in gas-related jobs in Pennsylvania.
According to a recent federal report, “The fastest 12 growing occupations in Pennsylvania are all directly related to Marcellus Shale,” said Sue Mukherjee, director of workforce development for the state’s Department of Labor and Industry.
The number of employees in the core oil and gas industries in Pennsylvania has more than doubled in the last three years.
Mukherjee said the number of new hires who come from within the state has increased to 74 percent.
The numbers are enough to make Mukherjee’s boss — Secretary of Labor and Industry Julia Hearthway — veer into hyperbole.
It’s “a tsunami of jobs,” Hearthway said Tuesday at a media event in the capitol sponsored by the gas industry.
“The opportunities are endless,” she said. “The human energy that can be generated from this is phenomenal.”
The daughter of a geologist who spent her early years in Midland, Texas, Hearthway said, “I’ve grown up seeing this — what natural resources can do for a community, and it’s phenomenal.”
“With the governor’s direction, I’m going to be completely focused on getting Pennsylvanians jobs in this industry.”
“Pennsylvania is blessed,” she said. “How blessed we are.”
A look at the state’s job picture since the end of 2007 suggests why Hearthway might wax messianic on gas.
Few sectors of the state economy show anything but contraction.
Construction jobs are down nearly 15 percent.
Manufacturing jobs are down more than 12 percent.
Information jobs are down more than 11 percent.
Only eight sectors show growth, and only two of them growth in the double digits.
Educational services sector jobs are up more than 14 percent.
Mining and logging sector jobs are up nearly 57 percent, and practically all of that increase can be attributed to the oil and gas core industries.
Hearthway said her job is matching people who need jobs to companies that have them.
The gas industry is adding jobs at a faster rate than any other industry.
“We are focused on this like a laser,” she said. It’s “job matching on steroids.”
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