The bulk of last year’s new hires in Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry came from the field, according to a survey published Wednesday by the industry’s leading trade group.
The Marcellus Shale Coalition, a lobbying group supported by just about all major gas producers in Pennsylvania and many of their subcontractors, released results from its 2013 Year End Workforce Survey revealing trends in hiring, and also data on challenges companies face in filling their ranks.
Of the year’s new hires, the majority — about 27 percent — were in the engineering and construction sector.
Of other new hires for 2013:
• Eight percent filled administrative positions.
• Less than 1 percent were welders.
• Twenty-three percent were equipment operators.
• Five percent filled new environment, health and safety positions.
• Fifteen percent were regular operations and maintenance workers.
“We continue to make positive progress on this important commitment, helping to create opportunities for those seeking work in our growing industry,” coalition President Dave Spigelmyer said in a news release. “And while some challenges still exist, this survey helps identify gaps to refine and better direct our collective efforts aimed at boosting local job growth for years to come.”
The Marcellus Shale formation sits below about five states, with the most gas-rich portions under northern Pennsylvania. While 60 percent of new hires were in Pennsylvania gas fields, Ohio followed at 12 percent and West Virginia at 9 percent.
Even New York, where the controversial gas-extraction practice of hydraulic fracturing is not allowed, took about 2 percent of the new-hire pie, with workers there likely building infrastructure.
Finding qualified workers remains the greatest hurdle among the coalition’s 60 plus member companies.
Frank Joanlanne, president of Plains Township engineering firm Borton Lawson, said the same is true for his company.
“It’s a longer hiring cycle,” Joanlanne said. “Because we’re also competing against the gas companies themselves.”
In the last year, Borton Lawson has hired 11 new employees for their oil and gas operations, Joanlanne said. They now have three open positions they are looking to fill, which is no easy task, he said.
Most companies reported, of the skilled positions in highest demand, there seems to be an imbalance with too few workers qualified to fill geology and engineering positions.
The survey showed most companies recruit talent using their own websites, job finding websites like Monster.com and the coalition’s own job-finding portal, as well as social media websites like Facebook and LinkedIn.
Fewest new recruits were found using newspaper ads, the survey says.
Schools and training centers came in third from last as recruitment sources.
Joanlanne said that while companies, including his own, seek partnerships with colleges and universities, the hardest jobs to fill often require more experience than simply a two- or four-year degree.