USA officials talk future


Utica Shale Academy officials are looking at ways to enhance the shale program so students can benefit even more — both in the classroom and eventually the workplace.

An advisory board meeting was held May 11 at the Southern Local School District office in Salineville and talks occurred between USA Board President Mark Johnson, USA Superintendent Dr. Mark Furda, Jefferson County Educational Service Center Superintendent Dr. Chuck Kokiko, advisory board member and independent oil and gas consultant Brian Logue, Southern Local School Superintendent and shale program developer John Wilson, USA Director Eric Sampson, Jim Buttermore of the New Castle School of Trades and Amanda Greathouse of Safety Pro Training Consulting.

The purpose of the session was to discuss what is currently available at USA and ways to make students more marketable for employment after graduation.

“We discussed the current curriculum for oil and gas certifications, as well as safety certifications currently offered,” Sampson explained. “We also discussed the partnership with New Castle School of Trades and its welding program with the potential addition of other programs in the future.”

The academy is offered to students statewide in grades 9-12 and provides curricula required by the Ohio Department of Education, as well as and PetroEd industry certification courses. It includes a customizable digital curriculum allowing for acceleration or remediation along with flexible scheduling, plus certification courses in SafeLand, OSHA10, First Aid and CPR, hydrogen sulfide (H2S) awareness and confined space certifications. Academy graduates receive a high school diploma, certificates and college credit options offered through Eastern Gateway Community College.

Recently, USA and NCST officials announced a partnership between the two sites which would allow shale students to take welding courses at the trade school’s East Liverpool location starting this fall. Shale students at both Southern Local and Columbiana High Schools will have the opportunity to obtain a welding certification, which would give them a major advantage when seeking a job in the industry.

NCST officials collaborated with Superintendent Wilson on the plan and students will attend three afternoons per week to earn 250 hours of welding credit toward their certification. That collaboration will also boost participation at NCST, which opened its doors in January and currently has 33 adult pupils studying HVAC, industrial maintenance and mechanical and electrical courses. The addition of the shale students will greatly increase that total since both USA sites yield a total of 69 pupils, plus it marks the first time the trade school will educate high school students.

During discussion, Logue and Greathouse shared their thoughts on the current programs and believed they helped to put the students in the best position for future success. Suggestions were also made to add small equipment training to the program.

Logue said the academy was on the mark when it came to providing a lot of the training but there was always room for improvement.

“The program is great. Students are getting basic training for oil and gas in terminology and specialized training that Amanda has given for First Aid, SafeLand and H2S,” he added. “They are getting some good experience.”

He said the welding program through NCST was another benefit while officials should also review adding heavy equipment training on telescoping forklifts, front end loaders and skid steers since they are regularly used in the industry.

Meanwhile, Sampson said the next crop of graduates is set to receive diplomas at 6 p.m. May 24 in the SLHS gym with Buttermore as the featured speaker. About 17 students are expected to graduate from the program.