Preparing Local Talent for Jobs in the Emerging Energy Sector: The ShaleNET Program

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The emerging energy sector is contributing significant job growth, but the ability of local workers to take advantage of new jobs can be limited by a lack of appropriate skills.

The ShaleNET Program is a unique partnership between employers in the energy sector and a consortium of colleges in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Through this partnership, local employers have designed sub-baccalaureate credentialing programs that teach critical, occupation-specific STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) skills to students set to take high-demand jobs in the expanding energy sector across the tri-state region.

To support the National Science Foundation's (NSF) goal of strengthening the research base that informs investments in STEM workforce preparation and development at the postsecondary level, RAND is conducting an innovative, multi-method study of the ShaleNET Program.

As ShaleNET is a conduit for entry- and career-level STEM jobs that do not require a bachelor's degree, RAND's study offers a unique opportunity to investigate whether public-private partnerships are an effective model for STEM workforce development.

Study Questions

Our study will address three questions:

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  1. How do regional business leaders and sub-baccalaureate education and training programs collaborate to ensure that such programs are producing graduates who have acquired the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities to succeed in the energy sector of the economy?
  2. Do oil and gas industry-specific credential programs convey knowledge, skills, and abilities required of employers in the sub-baccalaureate STEM labor market?
  3. Are workers who earn oil and gas industry-specific credentials more successful in the STEM labor market than their peers who pursue other postsecondary training options?

Data Collection

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To address the research questions, our study will including the following primary data collection components:

  • The RAND TRI-STATE Workforce Preparation Survey: Throughout the 2016-17 school year, we will administer a survey to ShaleNET instructors to learn how they convey the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed by local employers in the courses they teach.
  • SHALE Survey of Employers: In the Spring-Summer of 2016, we fielded an online survey to a representative sample of employers to document and describe how they identify the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to perform successfully at their companies, and how they communicate these needs to local education and training providers.
  • SHALE Survey of Education and Training Institutes: In the Spring-Summer of 2016, we fielded an online survey to administrators in two- and four-year colleges in the study region to understand in what ways institutions of higher education collaborate with local employers to meet workforce demands.

Study Timetable and Findings

This three-year study began in October 2015 and will conclude in September 2018. Results will be made available in 2018 and will be included on this website following their release.

For more information on the ShaleNET program, visit