Workforce Crisis: GTI Program Aims To Pre-empt Worker Shortage

Editor’s note: This article continues Underground Construction‘s series on the labor crisis facing many segments of the construction industry, which emphasizes the importance of education and training. See other recent articles in the series: 3 4 5 6]

To effectively perform their jobs, new employees must be trained or retrained with the necessary skills.

Toward that goal, the Gas Technology Institute (GTI) has developed a Certified Operators Technician Training Program, a 70 hour college level course designed to introduce students to the natural gas industry and provide the skills necessary for several types of in the field jobs.

GTI’s plan is to make the training program available through community colleges. LaGuardia Community College, Long Island City, NY, was the first to adopt the program, and the first course was completed the week before Christmas.

“Eight students enrolled in the program in October and attended classes two nights a week,” said Allen Cohen, director of Laguardia career and professional programs.

“All eight completed the course and received certificates from GTI for the Certified Operations Technician (COT) level.”


The goal of the LaGuardia program is to provide skilled workers for Consolidated Edison Company of New York, National Grid and other utilities. Instructors included two from GTI and one from Consolidated Edison.

“The academic part of the program was a success because all the students passed and were certified by GTI,” said Cohen. “The reason students enrolled in the program was to find employment working in the gas industry, so success of the program also depends upon outcomes. GTI is working with Con Edison to facilitate students being able to gain employment in an entry level position that would pay about $17 per hour and benefits with a chance for a career.”

“We’re very supportive of GTI’s educational initiative with a local community college,” said Kevin McHugh, manager of gas training for Consolidated Edison Co. of New York. “Skilled technicians are needed in the utility industry, and the certification program helps to provide a solid foundation for the emerging workforce.”

Rod Rinholm, GTI executive director of education and training, said that with gas industry retirements expected to reach unprecedented numbers in the next few years, industry training must react quickly to replace the lost skills. Some surveys predict that 35 to 40 percent of the industry’s workforce will retire in the next four to eight years.

“The industry no longer has the luxury of apprentice type on the job training because of the time required,” continued Rinholm. “GTI has been the premier provider of professional level industry training for the gas industry engineer and manager since 1942. We have now taken that performance based training program model and applied it to the field employee training with the COT program. The community college route can be a cost effective choice used by industry for new employee training and to provide local labor sources with an opportunity to learn the skills necessary for entry level positions, and thus a career in the natural gas industry.”

More classes slated

Rinholm said that community colleges in California, Kansas and Minnesota are also scheduled to begin classes in early 2009.

The program consists of one core course and additional elective courses that feature specific competencies in gas transmission and distribution. The program takes a student through a series of basic and advanced skill sets designed to enhance on the job performance and quickly bring the student to the level of a full functioning, skilled employee.

The course covers an introduction to natural gas, natural gas properties, the structure of the industry and a detailed examination of construction, operations, measurement, gas quality, gas control, safety and other practices. Students can then choose four or more elective courses – depending on the desired skill path and depth of training – from modules in 10 gas transmission and nine gas distribution topical areas. Through the elective courses, the student progresses from conceptual principles into advanced areas of each topic. Many elective courses also satisfy regulatory requirements for operator qualification and re qualification.

To enter the program, applicants must have a high school degree or GED, a valid driver’s license and are required to pass a math assessment test. Upon certification, students can apply for community college credit hours.

GTI is a leading research, development and training organization. For more than 65 years, the organization has addressed the nation’s energy and environmental challenges by developing technology based solutions for consumers, industry, and government.

LaGuardia Community College, is part of City University of New York and is a nationally recognized leader among community colleges. Founded in 1971, LaGuardia Community College has been recognized as an innovator in educating students who are under prepared for college work or whose primary language is not English.

“We are hoping to offer more training programs with GTI to serve the needs of the gas Industry by matching qualified workers to careers which provide benefits and long term employment,” said Jane MacKillop, Ph.D., associate dean of LaGuardia’s Division of Adult and Continuing Education.

GTI: Rod Rinholm, (847) 768-0868,

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