In a constant drumbeat of news about layoffs and plummeting oil prices, the November 2015 Associated Press article “Despite Oil Bust, Texas Prepares More Students for Oil Jobs” by Will Weissert resonated with me and gave me a feeling of hope knowing that our state is investing in our students’ future despite the current downturn.
The article explains that thousands of oil and gas industry jobs are evaporating like flares flaming out over natural gas wells. But in forward-thinking Texas, education officials at the high school level are preparing more young people for the oil patch.
I’m encouraged by our state’s high school educators acknowledging the potential for successful careers in the oil and gas industry, and helping students get an early start. For high school graduates who see the downturn in the oil and gas industry as an opportunity to sharpen their skills, there are options.
Many people think that working in oil and gas requires an engineering degree or MBA. While the industry still needs plenty of college graduates with bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Rigzone.com reported that during the most recent oil boom, the largest growth in the energy sector job postings was in the support areas like oilfield services. Energy sector employers need welders, operators and, in particular, diesel technicians — jobs that don’t necessarily require four-year degrees.
Technical schools like Universal Technical Institute (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 & Industrial Technology program, have landed well-paying jobs in the oil and gas industry.
Our 45-week Diesel & Industrial Technology program provides students with hands-on training using trucks and equipment from some of the biggest manufacturers in the world. Courses in the program include diesel engines, diesel fuel systems and hydraulic applications, equipping students with the skills and knowledge to work on everything from big trucks and corporate fleets to farm equipment and oil rigs.
Oil and gas companies like Schlumberger, Halliburton and Baker Hughes work closely with UTI to find graduates to work on the diesel equipment and engines in the oil field.
At Universal Technical Institute, our aim is to continuously improve upon our excellent student outcomes. Better than 60 percent of UTI students graduate* and four out of five UTI graduates find employment in their fields of study within one year of graduation.** The Houston Independent School District’s decision to expand the Energy Institute High School and to support growth of technical education programs is an excellent investment in the pipeline of talent we will need to keep the oil and gas industry flowing. A relationship between oil and gas companies and technical schools can be a win-win situation for everybody involved. Employers are able to add a qualified, knowledgeable asset to their workforce, and the employee is able to build a lengthy, well-paying career of which he or she can be proud.
The oil and gas industry will turn around. When it does, there will be plenty of jobs available; and with the help of technical schools like UTI and programs like the Energy Institute High School, there will be trained people to fill those jobs. Energy Institute High School Principal Lori Lambropoulos says, “We are in this downturn, but as a society we have a responsibility to not let that affect our workforce and to keep ahead of the game.”
By equipping tomorrow’s technicians with the skills energy companies need, Career Technical Education programs are doing just that. *As reported in the 2013 ACCSC annual report, approximately 11,908 of the 19,058 UTI students available for graduation in 2013, graduated for a total of 62.7 percent. **Approximately 9,200 of the 9,900 UTI graduates in 2014 were available for employment. At the time of reporting, approximately 8,100 were employed within one year of their graduation date, for a total of 88 percent. Per UTI’s accreditors’ reporting standards, this rate excludes graduates in the following classifications: continuing education, active military service deployment, a health condition that prevents employment, incarceration, international students who have returned to their country of origin or death. This rate includes graduates employed in positions that were obtained before or during their UTI education, where the primary job duties after graduation align with the educational and training objectives of the program. UTI cannot guarantee employment or salary.
About the author: Darrin Brust is Campus President at Universal Technical Institute-Houston and can be reached at email@example.com.
Photo courtesy of UTI