A recent initiative of Mentors Consulting and Training is connecting young Northside men to jobs in the natural gas industry.

Mentors, a career training company headquartered on the North Shore, along with the Initiative for High Priority Occupation are offering a six-week program for young, primarily African American men with high school educations who are looking for jobs.

Though the two companies are usually competitors, both agreed that connecting job seekers in low-income communities throughout the city of Pittsburgh to jobs in the emerging Marcellus Shale gas industry in Western Pennsylvania.

“It’s shameful, but we have one of the highest poverty rates among African-Americans in Pittsburgh,” said Mentors President and Owner Kris Kirk who noted that this was a wealth building program that would help individual families and the community. “That’s why we’re targeting this demographic. This is a real solution.”

The jobs the program will place graduates into pay between $50,000 and $55,000 per year, and only require a high school education. Kirk noted that there is longevity in the jobs, unlike similar construction work.

“These jobs are going to be around for 50 years,” she said.

There is no initial cost for the classes. Once graduates are placed in industry jobs, they will pay back 10 percent of their $8,000 scholarship back into the scholarship fund. Candidates must pass a drug test.

January will kick off the pilot year for the initiative, and Mentors plans to train 40 individuals for these jobs in classes of 10. The first four weeks of training will focus on the gas industry, while the last two will address wealth management and jobs skills.

The first round of classes will start this month, and there is already a waiting list for the next session. Mentors will be actively recruiting through the next year and starting by focusing on the Northside. They are working with the POISE foundation to find grant money for more scholarships.