I don't know what to think about a comment I keep hearing regarding the shale boom that is coming to the area.
The comment? That all the jobs coming our way as a result of the hydraulic fracturing process should be filled by ''local'' men and women. Leading the way in the hire-local-people movement is U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown. He will tell anyone who will listen that local people should get the local jobs.
According to his website, Brown recently visited Eastern Gateway Community College in Steubenville to push his SECTORS initiative, or ''Strengthening Employment Clusters to Organize Regional Success'' Act. He said he wants ''to ensure training is aligned with the needs of industries that are creating the jobs while providing a 'more structured, a more reliable ongoing stream of money' to pay for those programs, which . . . are key to ensuring Ohioans benefit from growth industries.''
But here is a statement that seems to push an isolationist attitude: ''We must make sure these new jobs are going to Ohioans, not out-of-staters. That's exactly what Retrain America and the ShaleNet programs at Eastern Gateway Community College are designed to do - train locals for shale exploration positions.
''The SECTORS act takes a similar approach by aligning worker training programs to the needs of industries that are creating jobs. It helps local communities, and educational institutions like EGCC, tailor work force training to meet industry needs. Here in Jefferson County, the SECTORS Act would help the community make sure more workers are prepared for opportunities in shale development.''
To a degree, I understand the comment and the thinking. Just to a degree. And I think he is correct when he says training is the key. There are a lot of jobs to be had when this development comes along - beginning in a year and half or so, some experts say. However, many of these jobs require specialized skills and training, as quickly and efficiently as possible.
I found a study released in 2011 about West Virginia's shale development. That state is a few years ahead of this area when it comes to fracking. It's called ''Direct Job Creation in West Virginia's Marcellus Shale, The Demand Generated by the Natural Gas Industry.'' It was prepared in collaboration with the Marcellus Shale Education & Training Center for the West Virginia Department of Education.
In the executive summary of the study, it says, ''The model shows that over 90 percent of job creation takes place in the pre-drilling and drilling phases of well development. Jobs, however, will not disappear once a well is completed because new ones will be started elsewhere - Marcellus activity is anticipated to last for decades.
''Most job creation will take place in unskilled and semi-skilled categories: general labor (20 percent of positions), general office (20 percent), CDL (10 percent). However, a substantial share of employment will be in the skilled, technical, managerial and professional / scientific arenas.
As revealed by the online survey, West Virginia's critical challenge relating to the oil and gas industry consists of developing the upper reaches of the work force - recruiting, training and educating professionals (engineers, geologists and geophysicists, IT support), managers and supervisors, marketing and sales personnel, welders, skilled workers and technicians. These are the occupational arenas in which companies currently ''import'' people. The task ahead is to develop policies and mechanisms allowing for ''import substitution,'' i.e., for replacing out-of-state workers with well-prepared West Virginians.''
Translation: From roustabouts to welders, from truck drivers to engineers, from clerks to geophysicists, jobs and development are coming. The study was from 2011, just a year ago. I think it reflects accurately what is needed in this area.
What is important to remember is the overall impact the shale boom is expected to bring. It will impact commerce: Grocery stores, home supply businesses, auto and truck dealers. Housing probably will be affected, as well as restaurants, retailers and wealth management professionals. The list goes on and on.
We shouldn't build a fence around the Mahoning Valley and say ''out-of-towners need not apply.'' Residents here should embrace how the Marcellus and Utica Shell developments are going to change this area - and workers who inevitably will come here during the process. Meanwhile, unless they already have the skill set needed, people in this area wanting a job in this little-known fracking process should be getting some training - now.
Robinson is the editor of the Tribune Chronicle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.