Training Series Targets Appalachia's Oil, Gas Knowledge Gap

Having worked in Western Pennsylvania for three decades, Ray Schmaus remembers the days when the sharp drop in domestic steel manufacturing served as the driver of his day-to-day work.

"One of the jobs in my career was to shut down steel mills," recalled Schmaus, president of Armstrong Search Associates, Inc., a Pittsburgh-based oil and gas title abstract firm.

Thanks in large part to widespread development of the Marcellus and – more recently – Utica shale gas plays in the past decade, the economic outlook for portions of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia has increasingly been driven by new investment in the region. Now, Schmaus and his colleagues are busy performing land, due diligence and other services for energy companies wishing to develop the region's hydrocarbon resources – and expand its employment base.

The future appears bright for Ohioans, Pennsylvanians and West Virginians seeking a well-paying career in the oil and gas industry while staying in the region. One challenge for local job-seekers, however, has been determining what jobs are available and how to get them. Furthermore, oil and gas operating and service companies in recent years have had to re-introduce the industry to the region by running extensive public awareness campaigns, helping to shape curricula at schools and implementing other initiatives.

Although oil and gas development in Appalachia dates back to the 19th century, younger generations of the region's inhabitants have had less recent exposure to the oil and gas industry than their peers in states such as Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas.

"There is a gap between people my age and people who were fry cooks 6 months ago who are now 'energy experts,'" quipped Schmaus, who recently turned 60.

Schmaus' company and the Pittsburgh chapter of Young Professionals in Energy (YPE Pitt) are teaming up to address the region's oil and gas industry knowledge gap. In early June, they are launching an "Energy Industry Training Series" to expose the next generation of oil and gas professionals to industry fundamentals.


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Matthew V. Veazey has written about the oil and gas industry since 2000. Email Matthew at


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