Schools Changing to Meet Demands of Marcellus Shale
26 February 2014
By Sarah Haemon, Staff Writer
MOUNDSVILLE - As the oil and gas industry booms in the area, local
schools are looking for ways to restructure curriculum and beef up
career and technical classes in order to meet the demands of a new
Schools in both West Virginia and Ohio are asking oil and gas
representatives what skills students need to develop in high
school in order to join the industry soon after graduation.
According to Doug Thoburn, superintendent for Union Local Schools,
the school district is putting more focus on what schools can do
to prepare students academically for the oil and gas fields. The
district is developing programs focusing on science and technology
to give students basic critical thinking skills the industry has
"We've had some good conversations in the local district on what
we can do to prepare our kids to go work in the evolving market of
oil and gas," Thoburn said. "We've had conversations with oil and
gas companies, and students need some basic skills such as problem
solving, a basic understanding of science and a good bit of math
is involved. It's a matter of sitting down and getting a list of
skills from the industry."
Thoburn said district administrators and teachers plan to meet
with representatives from the training branches of local companies
to discuss what specific skills students need to enter the
workforce after they get a diploma. Then, it's a matter of
tailoring the district's curriculum to those needs.
One answer is implementing what's known as STEM classes - science,
technology, engineering and math - at the local level. STEM blends
these fields in a hands-on, experimental setting to help students
engage in problem-based learning.
The Marcellus Shale boom in our region has led local school
districts to focus more with students on just what's happening,
and how it's changing the area.
Many local schools also are working with the oil and gas industry
to learn what skills students can be taught in high school that
will help them land a job in the industry.
STEM already is making its way into local classrooms. Thoburn said
Union Local is discussing how to implement STEM within the
district's budget and making improvements in technology to prepare
for technology-based curriculum.
Cameron Middle School also implemented Project Lead the Way this
year, which provides a "STEM education" to teach engineering-based
lessons in areas such as design software and robotics.
Michael Hince, superintendent of Marshall County Schools, said
West Virginia has put a huge emphasis on career and technical
education in recent years. The challenge, he said, is to have
classrooms emulate the workplace in a realistic way.
Hince cited Cameron High School's autotech program, in which
customers from the community can bring in vehicles to be repaired
right in the school's shop.
"It's real-world experience," Hince said. "It's a different
industry that's developing. What are the expectations? We want to
emulate the workplace environment. The push is to develop
classrooms that look like the workplace."
Hancock County Schools also has responded to the growing oil and
gas industry by providing a new diesel engine repair class in the
Rockefeller Career Center. According to Superintendent Suzan
Smith, there is a "definite need" for students familiar with
diesel engines, since they are the engines in heavy trucks used in
The Rockefeller Center is also in its second year of a new CDL
certification program, in which adult students can earn the CDL
license in a 12-week program. At the end, students have gained the
experience needed to drive heavy trucks for the Marcellus Shale
"There's a great amount of emphasis on career and technical
education, because honestly, that is where all the jobs are
today," Smith said. "If you look at the workforce, that's where
the employment opportunities are. We have students graduating high
school who are very much interested in joining the industry."