Female students learn about oil, gas industry jobs

11 18, 2014 by Houma Courier

Being raised with three brothers ignited a competitive spirit within local business owner Chris Hale.

“I was always taught that I could do anything I wanted to do even though I was a girl,” she said.

Hale, an owner of PDI Solutions in Schriever, was one of the many speakers Friday at Females Fueling Our Workforce that helped educate local female high school students about the opportunities available to women in the oil and gas industry.

On Friday, South Central Industrial Association’s Work It! Louisiana program, Fletcher Technical Community College and South Central Louisiana Technical College hosted the event at Fletcher Technical Community College’s BP Integrated Production Technologies Building in Schriever.

Nearly 1,000 female high school sophomores from 14 schools in four parishes heard several female speakers from the oil and gas industry discuss available job opportunities.

Students from Central Lafourche, South Lafourche, Thibodaux, Ellender Memorial, H.L. Bourgeois, South Terrebonne, Terrebonne and Assumption high schools attended, among others.

Shell, Chevron, Exxon and Atmos Energy were among companies that were represented.

Because Lafourche, Terrebonne, St. Mary and Assumption parishes have had the lowest unemployment rates in the state in recent years, a shortage of qualified workers has been created.

To fill this shortage, recruiting and educating young people about opportunities in the area is key, especially for females, said Lori Davis, president of Rig-Chem in Houma and board member of the South Central Industrial Association.

“It turned on a light bulb to thinking this isn’t just a job for the men in their world. The industry has jobs for women and it doesn’t mean you have to go offshore,” she said. “They know now that there are women who’ve been successful in oil and gas.”

Joe M. Zorn, Integrated Production Technologies instructor at Fletcher, said his students volunteered to show the high school students such things as how to operate safety equipment. Zorn said the point of this event was to reach female students at an early age, before they decide what career they want to pursue.

“Girls are taught they don’t get to make as much money as the men do. That’s a philosophy from 20 years ago that’s still hanging around. Now, they’ve got a workforce they never dreamed of,” he said.

Savanna Nacio, Central Lafourche High sophomore, said she has considered a job in the industry, which her family has been involved in, and Friday’s program was helpful.

“I’ve learned that it’s not a man’s world. It’s opened a lot of windows to things we wouldn’t have seen,” Nacio said.

Jessica Courteaux, Integrated Production Technologies student at Fletcher who was volunteering at the event, said training and advising students is something she does as a student worker at the college and something she enjoyed doing Friday.

“It shows them how interesting these things are. There’s a place for them in these programs and in this energy in general,” she said.

Caitlyn Chancey, South Terrebonne High sophomore, learned about the different types of petroleum engineering and the opportunities available in an office, rather than offshore.

“I was leaning more toward a nursing degree. Now I’m leaning more toward this,” she said.

Though her road through the industry hasn’t been an easy one, Hale is proud of the accomplishments, such as putting her two children through college as a single mother and owning a company.

She said she wanted to show the students the options women have in this field and to tell them not to give up.

“I want them to feel they can go into any industry they want to and that there is a need for them,” she said. “No matter where you start, you can do this.”