Building a workforce to fuel our nation

12 03, 2014 by Lori LeBlanc | BIC Magazine

While millions of Americans struggle to find work in other parts of the nation, Louisiana residents proudly claim one of the lowest average unemployment rates in the country, fueled largely by the demands of our productive petrochemical industry. Recent technological innovations have increased deepwater activity at an impressive pace, making the Gulf of Mexico the fastest growing offshore market in the world. If you are able to work, have a skill and appropriate training, and are drug-free, there is likely a job for you at a Louisiana port, shipyard, fabrication yard, refinery, pipeline or oilfield service company.

But with this growth comes a major workforce challenge. So many jobs and so much economic activity is going on in our little corner of the world. In fact, the short-term and long-term challenges of industry include finding enough qualified, skilled workers to fill these jobs and get the work done. To compound this increased hiring activity, 40 percent of skilled oil and gas professionals are expected to reach retirement age within the next decade. Companies will need to recruit and train a number of individuals to take on these roles, often referred to as the “big crew change.”

Recognizing workforce development as a critical need of our industry and the state of Louisiana as a whole, the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association (LMOGA) has embarked on an exciting private/public partnership with industry, educational institutions and the state of Louisiana to help meet the growing workforce needs of the deepwater exploration and production industry in the Gulf of Mexico. Partners in this effort include LMOGA, the Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS), University of Louisiana (UL) System, Fletcher Technical Community College, Nicholls State University, South Central Louisiana Technical Community College (SCLTC), Louisiana Workforce Commission, and Louisiana Economic Development. The group has already begun to work on a plan to coordinate and strengthen the higher education institutions engaged in the education and training of students for jobs in deepwater exploration and production.

“We have an incredible opportunity to recruit and train Louisiana’s workforce to fill the need for skilled workers in the deepwater offshore industry in the Gulf of Mexico,” LMOGA President Chris John observed this summer. “It is our vision together we will develop a field oriented, practical curriculum and certification program that will become the preferred model for offshore education training.”

LCTCS President Monty Sullivan agreed. “The oil and gas industry has been a staple in Louisiana’s economy for generations and a foundational partner for Louisiana’s community and technical colleges,” he said. “We look forward to continuing to provide education and training to Louisiana citizens for good paying jobs in this critical sector.”

“This partnership is a prime example of how Louisiana higher education is coming together with business and industry to meet workforce needs,” said UL System President Sandra K. Woodley. “Leveraging the power of existing programs at Nicholls State, Fletcher and SCLTC with LMOGA will yield a multifaceted approach to growing the employee pipeline for the fastest growing offshore market in the world. It is a wise approach for the long-term economic stability of our state.”

In October, the LCTCS laid out its own aggressive six-year plan, “Our Louisiana 2020,” which places a stronger emphasis on preparing students for jobs that are in highest demand, such as engineering technology, construction, welding, industrial production and electrical certifications. The plan would have the state’s community and technical college system graduating 40,000 students a year, with annual earnings of a graduating class at $1.5 billion.

LMOGA applauds LCTCS for this aggressive plan to meet the workforce challenges head-on and to equip future generations with the skills and education needed to secure good paying jobs right here in Louisiana. It’s efforts like this and the LMOGA/state partnership that will keep Louisiana residents working to fuel America for many years to come.