- Associated Press - Sunday, June 1, 2014

SOMERSET, Ky. (AP) - A new program that teaches high school students about natural gas technology is gaining popularity.

The Pulaski County Area Technology Center began offering the program in the fall. Principal Beth Hargis told the Commonwealth Journal (http://bit.ly/1pBnp6o) that the school is among the first to offer such a course at the secondary level and so far has seen success with it.

“We’re seeing a lot of natural gas in the news,” she said. “It’s really picking up steam. Now we have at least one school in Louisiana that’s wanting to start the program, but we really want to set the standard for how this goes in the country.”

The class was spurred by a discussion Hargis had with Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler, who told her a couple of years ago that the city’s gas department needed qualified workers.

“He said, ‘I’ll tell you a program you need. … You need to be offering some gas instruction. We need people. Whenever something happens, we’re having to contract it out. It’s costing us a fortune. We need people around here who can get training,’” Hargis said.

The city has a natural gas pipeline that stretches through six counties. In addition, it has opened a natural gas tank filling station and plans to build a station to monitor its natural gas network.

Girdler said the city has been pleased with the program and is helping out with it by providing equipment and an instructor. It is also offering positions to graduating seniors as well as some summer internships.

Hargis said students who successfully complete the program have a variety of options.

“The skill set for this industry is so huge,” said Hargis. “You could be an engineer. You could be a meter reader.”

Kentucky Gas Association Director Matt Tackett said he is excited about the program.

“I think (the school) ought to be applauded for their forward-thinking and what they’re doing for their students here to provide career-readiness education in what is a really rapidly growing sector of the economy,” Tackett said. “Natural gas is growing and will become more and more of a factor in energy. These are great jobs that these students will have access to because of what they’re doing here at the school.”


Information from: Commonwealth Journal, http://www.somerset-kentucky.com

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