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Mr. Champ’s optimism is not misplaced. Mr. Iannetti said companies recruit students before they finish the programs, which include a vocational technology offering for high school students and an adult course for Mr. Champ and others.

“When we first heard about this, we thought it was science fiction,” Mr. Iannetti said of the Marcellus Shale and the fracking process. “There’s excitement [in western Pennsylvania] again. This is not a flash-in-the-pan industry.”

He said his school has a 92 percent placement rate. Many graduates head to well sites, working for Range or one of its many competitors. But, Mr. Iannetti said, companies need more than well drillers.

There is high demand for electricians, welders, truck drivers, excavators and even accountants.

It isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s hard work, exactly the kind western Pennsylvanians are used to after the mighty rise and sudden fall of iron and steel operations, Mr. Iannetti said.

For the nation, it’s an opportunity to revolutionize energy policy. For workers, it means a good paycheck in an exciting field, accompanied by backbreaking work and weeks at a time away from home.

“It’s a rough lifestyle, staying away from your family,” Mr. Whalen said, growing angry when asked about those who demonize the industry and argue that it cares only about money.

“You just have to protect the environment. That’s my job,” he said.