PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – They’re still in eighth grade, but the shale gas industry says they’re not too young to start thinking about the future.

The industry has long-term plans for this region and it wants to develop a hometown workforce.

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So they’re recruiting early, in the schools, teaching kids about how the industry works and all the high-paying careers available.

“We’re going to take your top five career choices and then be ready to explain them,” a teacher says instructing her class.

While other classes were getting their first doses of algebra, or maybe reading “To Kill A Mockingbird,” eighth graders at Chartiers-Houston Middle School were studying something entirely different: possible careers in the shale gas industry.

“One thing I like was helicopter pilot and heavy equipment operator,” said student Noah Minney.

This eight week course — sponsored by Junior Achievement’s Careers in energy program — connects these students with teachers form range resources which has in interest in developing a hometown workforce for an industry with long-term plans.

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“It’s going to be here a long time and workers are needed and it’s best to hire local,” said Mike Macklin with Range Resources. “And to hire local you have to train local and to train local, you need to begin to get the youth of our area prepared for that.”

Whether you have a favorable opinion of shale gas development or not — it’s clear that industry has increased opportunities for employment in Washington County — and is giving these kids the option of finding high-paying careers here rather than moving away.

Whether that be white collar work like engineering or accounting, or manual labor on the rigs themselves.

“I’m more of a person who would like to get out and do stuff with my hands,” said student Seth Spinnenweber, “rather than sit in an office. I — literally I could not sit on an office all day and just do work.”

“So it’s really just having these youngsters think about their futures, start to think about it in eighth grade,” Macklin said, “what do I want to do? Do I want to go to college? Can I go to a vocational technical school and go from there?”

And developing that homegrown workforce is the aim of this program, and while eighth grade may seem early, the shale gas industry believes it’s not too early to start.

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