Workforce Crisis: GTI Program Aims To Pre-empt Worker Shortage

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | February 2009 Vol. 64 No.2

"We're very supportive of GTI's educational initiative with a local community college," said Kevin McHugh, manager of gas training for Consolidated Edison Co. of New York. "Skilled technicians are needed in the utility industry, and the certification program helps to provide a solid foundation for the emerging workforce."

Rod Rinholm, GTI executive director of education and training, said that with gas industry retirements expected to reach unprecedented numbers in the next few years, industry training must react quickly to replace the lost skills. Some surveys predict that 35 to 40 percent of the industry's workforce will retire in the next four to eight years.

"The industry no longer has the luxury of apprentice type on the job training because of the time required," continued Rinholm. "GTI has been the premier provider of professional level industry training for the gas industry engineer and manager since 1942. We have now taken that performance based training program model and applied it to the field employee training with the COT program. The community college route can be a cost effective choice used by industry for new employee training and to provide local labor sources with an opportunity to learn the skills necessary for entry level positions, and thus a career in the natural gas industry."

More classes slated

Rinholm said that community colleges in California, Kansas and Minnesota are also scheduled to begin classes in early 2009.

The program consists of one core course and additional elective courses that feature specific competencies in gas transmission and distribution. The program takes a student through a series of basic and advanced skill sets designed to enhance on the job performance and quickly bring the student to the level of a full functioning, skilled employee.

The course covers an introduction to natural gas, natural gas properties, the structure of the industry and a detailed examination of construction, operations, measurement, gas quality, gas control, safety and other practices. Students can then choose four or more elective courses – depending on the desired skill path and depth of training – from modules in 10 gas transmission and nine gas distribution topical areas. Through the elective courses, the student progresses from conceptual principles into advanced areas of each topic. Many elective courses also satisfy regulatory requirements for operator qualification and re qualification.