Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Louisiana Oil Rig Jobs and More on Sectoral Employment

louisiana oilI live in an oil state, Louisiana, but I never think about how many jobs the oil and energy industry create in the area, and that's probably because I don't meet people who work on oil rigs everyday. I run into people who used to work on oil rigs or I hear from a relative about someone hurt on an oil rig, and occasionally I see jobs posted for promoting the oil industry here. But the people considered to be mid-level skilled who work the rigs, those I don't see up close and personal with any regularity. Could it be because they're on rigs out in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico?

According to CNN commentary by Sheila Maguire, vice president for labor market initiatives at Public/Private Ventures and a board member of the Workforce Alliance, jobs on oil rigs and other "sectoral employment" gigs are hot.
... some employers are desperately searching for workers with the right skills.

Hospitals looking for X-ray technicians, manufacturers looking for machinists, and energy suppliers looking for people to service rigs and keep them safe are all facing real worker shortages.

These jobs require specific technical skills that can only be gained through focused training that is closely linked to the needs of local businesses. In fact, the largest portion of jobs in our labor market (nearly half) require some kind of technical training beyond a high school diploma, and these "middle-skill" jobs are experiencing the greatest shortages of skilled workers. (Commenatry)
Maguire hopes that President-elect Barack Obama and other policy makers will make job training for middle-level jobs and sectoral employment a priority. She asserts that retraining workers from low-income families to perform some of these jobs is a sure-fire way to fight poverty and would be prudent during this economic crisis.

I buy completely Maguire's advice that literacy, the ability to read well and do basic math, becomes an issue in finding workers to train for mid-level skills jobs and that the literacy focus turns too often to K-12 education problems only. We need more help for people who've matured, who have families to support, and as a result understand the importance of learning to read and write better and develop better math skills in a way they never did while goofing off in high school.

It's true schools must work harder to motivate younger students to learn, but so must parents. Students who don't have a natural love of learning can be motivated by a desire to improve their own lives, something many of us don't grasp until we must earn our own way in the world, which is why programs to retrain older workers who currently have low-paying jobs should be successful.

Those thoughts aside, after reading Maguire's piece, I visited, the Louisiana Department of Labor job bank site and entered the word "oil" with jobs paying more than $30,000 per year (going for more than twice minimum wage), and found that most of the jobs seemed to be for skill levels above middle, mostly engineering jobs. However, I also saw jobs such as the following:
  • Offshore mechanic - generator oil and gas: If you are a great Offshore Mechanic with Generator experience, please read on!
  • General service technician: As a General Service Technician you will perform general preventive maintenance services along with complete vehicle safety checks for autos and light trucks.
  • Field Service Technician: U.S. based Client has contract, possible temp to hire long term assignment openings located in Aruba for Field Service Technicians that have experience in the areas of Substation testing, inspection, maintenance and repair of electrical power systems.
  • Oil Industry Pilot: Rotorcraft Leasing Company is currently recruiting qualified professional helicopter pilots. We operate a premium fleet of 151 Bell ans Sikorsky helicopters in support of the offshore oil and gas industry within the Gulf of Mexico.
That's a few of the oil rig-related jobs. As I said, most of the jobs were for engineers, higher than middle-level skill, such as these petroleum engineering jobs at Chevron.
And I heard a while back on NPR that for those who have the money to attend college, careers related to finding oil and minerals are up and going higher. Graduates leaving school with degrees in geology, for instance, are commanding killer pay, $80,000 to start.

While I didn't see beaucoup oil rig jobs at, I'd bet money that there's an agency keeping dibs on such jobs for less skilled workers. I know at least one woman who was a cook on an oil rig. The next time I see her, I think I'll ask how she found that job, and I'll spread the word. It's a job I can't imagine myself doing.

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