BTC, Consol join work training efforts
BTC, Consol join work training efforts
ACCORDING TO officials at Belmont Technical College, a headline in a recent business cover page of The Times Leader said it all.The article, titled "High-tech mining: Coal industry uses newest technology, seeks skilled workers," explained how computer screens and fiber optic cable have become almost as much a part of coal mining as the pick and shovel once were.
Technologically driven production facilities require a more highly trained and sophisticated workforce. Now coal mines are seeking potential employees from the graduating lists of local colleges.
CONSOL Energy Inc. needs employees for five of its mines. Three of those are the largest coal mines in the world and all are within the area.
"We need to re-educate people as to the opportunities in the coal mines," said Mark Hrutkay, manager of CONSOL Energy Human Resources Department, River Operations. "The next generation of young persons has a wonderful future in the industry."
CONSOL Energy officials are confident they know exactly what they want in an employee. In addition to knowing what technical skills are required they also know what personal characteristics fit the culture of the company. Additionally, the company has projections dealing with the number of new hires that will be needed, when they'll be needed, and the types of jobs they need to fill. They then came to the next step - developing a process that will ensure a steady flow of trained individuals to meet the needs of the company.
CONSOL Energy has teamed up with Belmont Technical College to create a better trained, more technological workforce to fill the many positions now opening up for those with the proper skills.
The college is customizing its mining offerings to fit CONSOL Energy's needs. The resultant degree will offer an opportunity for students to enter into a field that has the highest wages in private industry, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.
CONSOL Energy has invested more than $200 million in the past several years developing the McElroy Mine. The mining industry is making a capital investment far beyond anything else in the Ohio Valley.
Today's ideal candidate for the resultant jobs is multi-skilled. The college offers a broad range of engineering and industrial skills, including safety and productivity, as well as an 80-hour mining course required before working underground.
Bob Barsch, a graduate of Belmont Technical College now employed at CONSOL Energy's River Operations, could serve as a model for today's coal miner. His college degrees immediately preceded his journeys to an abundance of different horizons throughout the world.
Encouraged to get a degree in addition to the coal mining associate degree from Belmont Technical College by CONSOL Energy (which paid 90 percent of the tuition), Barsch went on to get a degree in business from Ohio University, and traveled to Australia, Poland, Germany and many other parts of the world.
One of his most unusual challenges, however, came at Loveridge Mine near Fairview, W.Va., where he used the exhaust from a jet engine to extinguish a stubborn mine fire. It was the first time it had been done in this country.
The technical skills he learned at BTC served him well then and as he worked with some of the most sophisticated and advanced equipment in the world, he said.
"I've trouble shot Polish and Japanese electrics," he said. "A coil is a coil."
His skills and his work ethic have taken him to the position of manager of maintenance for river operations, but there have been quite a few steps along the way in a short period of time. He has served as assistant maintenance foreman, maintenance foreman, longwall maintenance coordinator, master mechanic, assistant superintendent, and others.
"The electro-mechanical degree got me a start on what makes things tick," said Barsch. "A lot of people get engineering degrees, but don't know about trouble shooting. If you learn the basics at a place like Belmont Technical College, you can go to any industry and trouble shoot."
For years, many have awaited the return of significant opportunities in the local coalfields. For those who are properly prepared, that time has arrived.