Classes prepare students for work in oil and gas

April 10, 2014

WAYNESBURG – Students in the junior and senior classes at Waynesburg Central High School were presented with a unique opportunity this year to study for certification with the Petroleum Energy Council. Earning PEC certification enables students to enter the oil and natural gas industry in a variety of ways.

“I’ve been told this certification is known as ‘the ticket to the game,’” said instructor Justin Golsky. “This is like your passport to the oil and gas industry. It is an overview of the industry, not specific training, but a lot of the big contractors require it.”

Golsky started teaching classes to prepare students for careers in oil and gas eight years ago at Waynesburg Central, but the PEC certification became a part of the curriculum this school year.

“The PEC certification is equivalent to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration 10 (10-hr. safety certification) but the PEC certification is oil and gas specific,” Golsky said.

Students are required to pay a fee of $25 to take the test at the end of the course, as opposed to the industry standard of more than $200. “It either ends up saving the student or the contractor that hires them from incurring the cost,” Golsky said.

Starting in high school and continuing through college, Golsky worked part time for various industrial companies and continues to work in the oil and gas field, time permitting.

After working in the industry for all of those years, Golsky has built a bank of employers willing to consider his students for employment. Several, even without the PEC certification, went on to work in the industry or to pursue higher education in the field.

Several of his former and current students are working in the industry. Golsky said there is talk of making the class available evenings or weekends for adults.

Salaries can range from $60,000 to more than $100,000, depending on the specific job, Golsky said. He recommended continuing education for the industry at either Westmoreland County Community College or ShaleTEC to obtain the skills to reach the higher pay grades.

Currently, hands-on experience is not part of the curriculum at Waynesburg, although Golsky hopes to find industry partners to help change that. Field trips to local gas and oil companies, such as the Haliburton facility in Khedive, have given students first-hand glimpses at what specific jobs entail.

The overall focus of the PEC class at Waynesburg is on creating and maintaining a safe work environment.

“It is important for them to get their attitude right for this industry. You work long days and being drug free is something we talk about every day. I give them my real world experience and we have a lot of good discussions about (not using) drugs,” Golsky said. “I had a student who was called in to take a pre-employment drug test on Thursday. He passed it and got hired. On Friday he went there and had to submit to a random drug test and he’d never worked a day yet.”

Being drug free with reliable transportation and a good work ethic is more important than specific experience in many ways, he added.

“They don’t ask what your skills are as much as they ask, ‘Can you pass a drug test and can you show up again tomorrow?’ If you can say yes to that they’ll train you,” he said. “If you want to work it might be seven days a week but you can make some pretty good money. This is a 24/7 opportunity and you might work 20 days straight but you have to work.”

An added bonus to Golsky’s class is optional instruction for students wishing to obtain a Commercial Driver’s License permit. Three students have earned a CDL and a handful of others have their permits, Golsky said.

“These kids have a big opportunity (by taking the PEC class); they really do,” Golsky said.

Tara Kinsell started her career in journalism with the National Geographic Insider Magazine and the Gaithersburg Gazette Newspaper in Montgomery County, Md. Tara has written and photographed sports, features and news stories for the Herald Standard, Greene County Messenger and Albert Gallatin Weekly. She holds degrees in journalism and graphic design from Waynesburg College, now Waynesburg University, and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, respectively.

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