TEAM Consortium – Focusing on Future Employer Needs

Jan 25, 2018 Transportation & Infrastructure

The Tri-State Shale Summit

In late November, members of the Tri-State Shale Coalition and interested stakeholders from Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia gathered for the third annual Tri-State Shale Summit at Stark State College in Canton, Ohio.

The 2017 Summit was a forum to discuss current efforts promoting the region’s developing shale industries. The Summit addressed the question, “Where have we been and where are we going?” The agenda featured engaging sessions on the coalition’s work in transportation & infrastructure, marketing the region, research & innovation, commercialization, and workforce development. Power of 32 talked to four of the expert presenters who shared the key messages from their presentations.

Dr. Chris Reber, president of the Community College of Beaver County (CCBC), spoke at the Tri-State Shale Summit during a session on Workforce Development. His presentation was on the Tri-State Energy & Advanced Manufacturing (TEAM) Consortium. TEAM brings together industry, higher education, workforce and economic development partners from Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The TEAM Consortium, which covers a 27-county tri-state region, represents a single labor shed within which workers and students can commute to training and work. The consortium is building, in part, on previous ShaleNET efforts while developing new systems to focus on future employer needs by aligning curricula, sharing training tools and vendor lists, and creating seamless pathways across state lines.

According to Reber, CCBC has been asked to take the baton and create the consortium, build upon the ShaleNET program and provide leadership for the tri-state region.

CCBC’s ongoing work with the regional petrochemical industry makes them well suited to spearhead the Consortium.  “Since we are two miles from the new ethane cracker plant in Monaca, CCBC has reached out and worked with the petrochemical industry in the tri-state region,” explains Reber. “This has led to the development of new programs at CCBC and positioned us to provide leadership for some of the immediate and long-term workforce development needs associated with the new plant.”

“In order for the community and region to realize the full benefit of this economic transformation, we all need to work together,” says Reber. “The Consortium will share best practices and continue building the programs and curricula needed in our region as multiple crackers are built and other industrial development occurs.”

The importance of collaboration is echoed by Betsy McIntyre, director of TEAM Consortium in the department of workforce and continuing education at CCBC. “We are building a local workforce for the energy and advanced manufacturing industries in a regional way,” she explains. “It is a regional economy so there needs to be collaboration to erase state lines and coordinate the matriculation of students to ensure portability of credits, and to support one another so we aren’t recreating the wheel but are working together.”

According to McIntyre, TEAM held its first meeting this fall and is organizing committees focused on the following key areas.

  1. Education and training – developing common and consistent quality curricula.
  2. Workforce development – working with workforce boards and economic development entities to connect people across state lines and enabling training funds to cross state lines.
  3. Industry –assuring that there is consistent communication and partnership with the oil and gas industry and the manufacturing sector.
  4. Organization and sustainability – addressing the fundability of regional efforts to be sure that programs are sustainable, useful and meaningful for the next decade or more as the workforce needs continue.
  5. Marketing – informing people that these jobs are different than the manufacturing jobs of the past, and helping them understand that there is a whole range of education and training options available.

A Changing Landscape

McIntyre says it’s important to help people understand the current landscape. With the new wave of economic activity from the energy and advanced manufacturing industry, there has been a huge shift in the types of students in training programs and the types of jobs available.  “We need to respond to these changes with bold ideas,” she adds. “Change the way we engage students, the way we train them and the way we connect them to industry.”

A key change is in assuring that skills and knowledge are portable and stackable so students have the opportunity to both learn and earn by acquiring shorter term credentials with clear labor market value even as they continue to build on these to access more advanced jobs and higher wages. And so that employers, educational institutions, and students can all have confidence that credentials are recognized from state to state.

“TEAM educators understand how important it is to create curricula that can transfer skills and knowledge from job to job and state to state,” says McIntyre. “The stackable credentials that they have begun to put together really do that. Students can be in a job and get the additional education and training needed to advance in a much more portable way. Training and education will be modular, more à la carte.  Students no longer need to get on a path and have their careers set. It’s just not like that anymore.”

Challenges and Opportunities

TEAM is well aware of the importance of working together to build awareness about the new career opportunities in the region, the programs that are in place and how students can move from one program to another. The Consortium also recognizes the importance of building awareness as early as elementary school and middle school, and the need to bring greater awareness to parents, family members, teachers, and guidance counselors.

“There is so much challenge and opportunity wrapped together,” says Reber. “There are a lot of examples of good things happening, good programs that are in place and being developed. But we also know that there are a lot of gaps in terms of having programs that are going to meet needs now and in the future, how we define awareness and programming in K12 and post-secondary education, how we work together with the apprenticeship programs, and even with proprietary education.”

Reber and McIntyre are excited and optimistic about TEAM and the ability of this group to work together to focus on the needs of students and employers.  “We have the honor and responsibility of providing leadership that is going to be critical,” says Reber. “What I feel proudest about is that all of the work we are doing is in partnership and collaboration with others.”