Skip to comments.Drilling boom, looming retirements create a need for energy workers
Posted on 11/12/2012 8:25:30 AM PST by thackney
The future looks bright, but Hector Rivero is worried.
The demand for energy workers is up, driven by the shale oil and gas boom and the coming surge of retiring baby boomers, which could force some companies to replace up to half of their workers within the next 15 years.
That means a need for everything from technicians and maintenance workers to engineers and CEOs.
Its a good problem to have, said Rivero, president of the Texas Chemical Council. But were concerned. We see challenges in the education system.
He thinks the states emphasis on academics over vocational education has pushed too many students to drop out before they graduate, leaving the training required for todays high-tech energy industry out of reach.
Other people express concern that the country isnt producing enough students in science and engineering to meet the growing need.
The energy business has evolved, said Scott Rozzell, vice president and general counsel at CenterPoint Energy. Its very important they bring a two-year degree, a four-year degree. What we dont have is good opportunities for people who are just high school graduates.
Recession a factor
Companies are donating money for scholarships and equipment for training programs, along with offering internships and other inducements to get workers in the door.
Latha Ramchand, dean of the University of Houstons Bauer College of Business, said the situation seems less dire than it did just two years ago.
Thats partly because the recession prompted so many people to postpone retirement.
Ramchand said there is a gap between workers in their early 30s and younger and those in their mid-50s and older.
This business is so dependent on the price of oil, she said, so hiring came to a halt in the 1990s, when oil often was priced below $20 a barrel. Youre going to see young people having to shoulder more responsibility.
Community colleges are ground zero.
In addition to lower-division academic programs, they offer job training through associate degrees and certificate programs.
That kicked into high gear when hydraulic fracturing technology opened the Eagle Ford Shale and other areas of the United States, creating jobs in the oil and gas fields and in chemical plants, refineries and related areas.
Chevron Phillips Chemical donated $75,000 to Lee College in Baytown last month for scholarships and equipment for the process technology, instrumentation technology and electrical technology programs.
Its a high-tech skill thats required to operate a modern petrochemical plant, said Mark Lashier, the executive vice president of olefins and polyolefins at Chevron Phillips.
Most area community colleges offer a similar array of programs.
Mike Speegle, chairman of the process technology department at San Jacinto College, meets regularly with executives from companies that line the Houston Ship Channel.
They tell us, keep the pipeline full, full of graduates coming out, he said.
About 200 students graduate every year from San Jacintos process technology program, which prepares them for work in chemical and nuclear plants, refineries, food and beverage plants and other manufacturing facilities; 98 percent have jobs when they graduate.
Keep the pipeline full
Chemical plants pay at least $85,000 a year, Rivero said. But he contends the requirement that Texas high school students complete four years of math and science intended to prepare them for college instead prompts many to drop out.
That is an admirable ambition, but its not very realistic, he said. We hire engineers, chemists, lawyers. But we also hire a tremendous amount of folks willing to work with their hands for a good salary. Welders are commanding over $40 an hour, and our industry cant find enough of them.
Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency, said 77 percent of high school students take at least one vocational class now called career and technical education despite the academic requirements.
Many are classes in computer and Web design, but she said some schools still offer traditional vocational classes, such as auto mechanics and welding.
A handful of community colleges offer four-year degrees, either on their own or through collaborations with four-year schools.
Brazosport College in Lake Jackson was one of the first, authorized in 2005 to offer a bachelors degree in industrial management.
It is aimed at workers in the regions petrochemical plants, President Millicent Valek said, with lower division requirements in technical skills and the final two years focused on management.
She noted that Texas Gov. Rick Perry called for a $10,000 college degree a few years ago. This is one, she said. These students are employed and realizing job advancement opportunities.
Houston Community College recently announced a deal with the University of Texas at Tyler to allow students to earn UT-Tyler degrees in mechanical or electrical engineering by taking classes at HCCs Alief campus.
HCC faculty will teach students in the first two years of the program, with UT-Tyler facility teaching the final two years.
That appeals to Maryam Mosahab, who already has a degree in civil engineering but hopes to earn a degree in mechanical engineering in order to work in the oil business.
Originally from Iran thats oil country as well, she said Mosahab sees the UT-Tyler program as a way to retool her skills for a new career in her adopted homeland.
CenterPoints Rozzell, who serves on the HCC Foundation board, said the collaboration ought to provide an important boost to the energy workforce.
We need skilled workers, and those skills can be operational skills, like electricians or welders, he said. Or they can be engineering skills, math skills. All of those are the kind of things community colleges are well-suited to provide.
U.S. Crude Oil and Natural Gas Rotary Rigs in Operation
What is the Information Technology landscape like in the petroleum industry? Are there a few major software vendors? a lot of in house home grown IT projects? a mix of both?
I’m convinced is not shortage of jobs or potential jobs. There is, for the most part, a shortage of willing workers. We also have a Gov’t whose regulatory policies are absolutely suppressing new hiring.
The Gov’t pays tens of millions of low-skilled workers to stay out of the labor market. That is either through Welfare, Food Stamps, or even low cost student loans. On the regulatory side, everything from the EPA to Obamacare are killing jobs as well.
There is, for the most part, a shortage of willing and capable workers.
Capable includes requirements such as passing a drug test.
Ubama hates it when Americans have jobs that should belong to workers in more deserving countries, like Venezuela and China.
I’d be interested in knowing myself.
Union teachers pumping out kids who can't read? Yeah, what's the problem there?
My side of it is the engineering/design of the facilities. Much of the software we use is not specific to the oil/gas industry. I don't know enough to answer your question.
Why does everything need a college degree? How about certification that requires a year or two of schooling instead? Especially for people who already have degrees and want to change jobs. Make it easier for US citizens who have lost their jobs to move on to new careers.
“...What is the Information Technology landscape like in the petroleum industry? Are there a few major software vendors? a lot of in house home grown IT projects? a mix of both?...”
I’m on the field engineering side. The only proprietary software I’m aware of is in the seismic arena where the logging, mapping, etc. of the formations are done. They keep those cards pretty close to their chest. Everything else out here in the field is the same commercial software that most any other company would use depending on the specific need. Some of these remote locations present major logistic problems with internet access along with phone service. Not sure that answers your question.
“...Why does everything need a college degree? How about certification that requires a year or two of schooling instead?...”
Not everything does. This industry needs welders, electricians, inspectors, etc. I’m one of the very few 4-year mechanical engineers (with an MBA) out in the field locations. I’m here because I got tired of the 30 years of the shirt/tie political BS in an office setting. So told them good-bye and came out here to get away from it all....and I LIKE IT and having fun doing it!!!! Some of my best counterparts out here are NOT college-educated. BUT, they have the skill sets of years of experience in this business. They know their shit. And believe me, I’ll take those guys over the inexperienced degree-types any day for the type of work we’re doing. All the degree does is possibly open up doors higher up in the office food chain. Those with the hands-on experience, background and work ethic don’t go unemployed for very long.
That helps. Is the seismic software something typically produced by the rig manufacturers, the major integrated oil/gas firms, or third parties?
“....Is the seismic software something typically produced by the rig manufacturers, the major integrated oil/gas firms, or third parties?...”
Since I’m more on the oil/gas processing & treating side of things, I really don’t know for sure how it came about, but my guess is that it’s a product of probably a 3rd party that works really close with oil/gas firms for this type of work. I’ve only seen some random screen shots and it appears to be pretty darn detailed. I think it makes the days of drilling the “dry hole” pretty obsolete. I think they also use some propriety stuff on the actual drilling effort in conjunction with seismic mapping to determine when the horizontal drilling application takes place into the formation for fracking. Like I said, it’s not a part of the business that I work in everyday.
There are both, but if I was looking for an IT job, I’d check with individual oil companies, service companies (Schlumberger, for instance, and MWD companies), and companies who write software like Petra.