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Section A: General News


An analysis ... Technical schools: The easy answer to the oil, gas industry’s job shortage




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June 4, 2014 | 4,390 views | Post a comment

By Darrin Brust

If you do a simple Google search for “skills shortage in oil and gas,” you’ll find pages of articles with titles like “Skills Shortages in a Booming Market: The Big Oil and Gas Challenge,” “Labor and Skills Crisis Could Stall Oil and Gas Boom,” “Transferable Skills Are A Must in Oil, Gas Industry’s Labor Shortages,” and “Action Needed on Growing Skills Shortage in Oil and Gas Industry.”

One particular article, “Blue-collar jobs need better image amid labor shortage, leaders say,” caught my eye, especially because the Eagle Ford shale is in our back yard.

The article explains that domestic energy development is spurring demand for skilled mechanics. Despite the fact thousands of workers flock from all over the country to work in the oil and gas fields, companies are still struggling to fill hundreds ... if not thousands ... of blue-collar jobs.

Many industry experts blame the aging work force and high workloads driving the demand, and while both of these may be true, blue-collar jobs can have a negative reputation with high school graduates who are so strongly encouraged to get a degree from a four-year university.

Mike Rowe, the creator, executive producer, and host of Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe,” who recently established a mikeroweWORKS Foundation/Universal Technical Institute (UTI) Scholarship program for those pursuing technical education at UTI, was quoted in the article as saying that “... mechanics are still thought of as grease monkeys. In truth, they’re more like rocket scientists today. The skilled trades, once held in high esteem, are now seen as some kind of vocational consolation prize.”

Rowe is absolutely right. The truth is, technical schools like UTI can open up a world of high-paying opportunities to graduates. While most of our students enroll at UTI with the intention of working at a car dealership or opening their own repair shop, some of the graduates -- particularly from our diesel and industrial technology program -- have landed well-paying jobs in the oil and gas industry.

Many people think that working in oil and gas requires an engineering degree or a MBA, but in reality, these companies need people with technical skills, which don’t necessarily require a four-year degree. Oil and gas companies like Chevron, Schlumberger, KBR, and Halliburton approach us constantly, looking for graduates to come work on the diesel equipment and combustible engines in the oil field.

In fact, from January 2013 to April 2014, we’ve graduated approximately 630 students from our diesel programs, and about 100 of those graduates moved on to positions related to the oil and gas industry. I think it’s safe to say there will be plenty of jobs available in the future, especially if the Eagle Ford continues to produce oil over the next 40 years, as many experts have predicted.

A relationship between oil and gas companies and technical schools can be a win/win situation for everybody involved. The employers are able to add a young, qualified, knowledgeable asset to their work force and the employee is able to build a lengthy, high-paying career that he or she can be proud of.

The jobs are clearly out there but we need people, especially high school graduates and military veterans, to realize that blue-collar jobs don’t have to mean blue-collar wages.

Darrin Brust is the president of Universal Technical Institute in Houston and can be reached at dbrust@uti.edu.
 

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