Pittsburgh Technical Institute opens new center

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Students have been working there since Oct. 15, but today is the grand opening and official ribbon cutting of the Energy Technology Center at the Pittsburgh Technical Institute in North Fayette.

The $3.5 million building, which covers more than 15,000 square feet, is headquarters for the school's programs in oil and gas electronics, welding technology and HVAC technology.

All of the programs in the new building are heavily geared toward meeting the needs of the companies that explore and develop the Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale.

"What we are hearing is they are not getting what they need" and are importing thousands of workers from other areas, including Oklahoma and Texas, said Greg DeFeo, president of PTI.

Sixteen companies have donated $750,000 worth of equipment and software for the technology center's three new labs, which are equipped with a total of nearly $1.25 million in "industry-specific equipment."

"The region's employers are supportive of these new programs and have both guided curriculum development and contributed significantly to our facilities," George Pry, PTI's executive vice president, said.

"Companies such as Emerson Process Management/Equipment and Controls Inc. and Lincoln Electronic have helped us outfit our labs. We know our graduates will have the skills our employers need [because they] practice on some of the same equipment that employers use."

Other companies that have helped to equip the labs include Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, Lennox, Trane, Metro Heating & Cooling and Rockwell Automation.

Regional employers regularly contact Pittsburgh Technical Institute looking for interns and employees, school officials said.

The new building is on the eastern quadrant of the 180-acre campus. In addition to the labs, it contains classrooms, faculty offices, meeting rooms and a two-story plaza lobby. A rain garden has been planted next to the building. It also has an outdoor basketball court and two volleyball courts, one with sand.

Earlier this year, PTI announced a new certificate program in welding technology and an oil and gas electronics concentration to its electronics engineering technology associate in science degree. The institute's oil and gas program is the first associate degree program in the region that concentrates on electronics for the energy sector, school officials said.

The energy industry needs technicians in electronics, pipeline, field service and well sites, Mr. DeFeo said, as well as welders, soldering and brazing workers, machinists, sheet metal workers, structural metal fabricators, boilermakers, and pipe and steam fitters.

Welders are in great demand for a number of reasons, he said, starting with the fact that older, skilled welders are retiring. "Different skill levels and talent levels" of welders are needed as pipelines are being built, with steel pipes as large as 36 inches, he said.

Total enrollment at PTI is nearly 2,000 students in nine schools, with 134 students taking classes in the new building.

One of those students is Matthew Poe, 33, who on a recent day was taking a class quiz in the Emerson Oil & Gas Lab. Now in his fifth quarter at PTI, he hopes to be a field engineer in the oil and gas industry. He needs one more quarter to graduate, and he will spend that in an internship in the industry.

He's familiar with the industry because he's from southwest Louisiana, where many of his relatives and friends work in the energy field.

"The oil and gas industry is changing rapidly," Mr. Poe said. "We are getting the newest technology here."

Mr. Poe enrolled at PTI after serving 10 years in the U.S. Navy. He said he and his wife came to Western Pennsylvania to visit a friend "and we fell in love with" the area. The family lives in Scott and their children go to the Chartiers Valley School District.

Linda Wilson Fuoco: lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-722-0087.

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