As the saying goes, “Tough times don’t last, tough people do,” and nowhere does the United States Department of Energy (DOE) see a tougher, more resilient people than in the Appalachian region of Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky.
During my time as Secretary, I visited communities throughout the region, from Erie, Pennsylvania down to Oak Ridge, Tennessee. I saw firsthand how the abundant natural resources of the region are enabling economic growth in towns and communities throughout Appalachia. Recently, I visited a natural gas well outside Pittsburgh and the site of an ethane cracker facility in Belmont County, Ohio, each of which highlight the opportunities on the horizon for the area.
In fact, thanks to the hardworking culture of the Appalachian region and its abundant natural resources, President Trump’s Administration and DOE predict the region’s energy, manufacturing, and petrochemical economic potential will help power the great American post-pandemic comeback.
DOE’s report, “The Appalachian Energy and Petrochemical Renaissance,” notes that the full potential of the region’s abundant natural resources will ultimately be unleashed by the private sector, but the government has an important role to play in this resurgence. Most critically, we must work together through private-public partnerships to help ensure Appalachia’s workforce is trained for the energy, manufacturing, and petrochemical jobs of today and the future.
To ensure that the people of Ohio and Pennsylvania are trained and prepared for projects like the OPCP, DOE is focusing on workforce development through several public and private sector efforts so businesses, families, and communities can thrive and prosper.
First, DOE is encouraging public and private sector partners to continue investing in and promoting initiatives like the Tri-State Energy & Advanced Manufacturing (TEAM) Consortium.
Since 2017, The TEAM Consortium has provided credentialed education and training that leads to jobs in the Appalachian energy and manufacturing sectors. The Consortium serves 27 Appalachian counties through community colleges and higher education institutions in the region.
The consortium members offer five tiers of workforce development:
(1) Foundational skills training,
(2) Three-week training,
(3) Certificate programs,
(4) Associate degrees, and
(5) Bachelor’s degrees.
This workforce development model has proven highly successful in the region and is a candidate for scaling to other parts of Appalachia.
Second, DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) Regional Workforce Initiative is fostering regional discussion on workforce readiness and skills gaps for energy and advanced manufacturing jobs.
DOE is also encouraging employers in the Appalachian region to become signatories of President Trump’s Pledge to America’s Workers and make commitments to expand their programs that educate, train, and reskill American workers from high school age to near retirement.
These efforts are necessary so that access to skilled and educated labor does not become a bottleneck to economic growth.
For example, one project we are excited about is the Ohio Petrochemical Complex Project (OPCP), being developed by PTT Global Chemicals America, in Belmont County, Ohio.
When completed, this multi-billion-dollar facility will leverage Appalachia’s proximity to the domestic customer base for chemical derivatives and finished manufactured products, providing well-paying jobs during construction and throughout the life of the plant.
The Department will continue to pursue opportunities to expand workforce development efforts in Appalachia, both in terms of the numbers of participants and geographic reach of its efforts. And by doing so, we will clear pathways to new or higher-level positions in the workforce enabling a bright future for the region.
To read more about DOE’s multifaceted approach to driving innovation in Appalachia, click here.