Pathways to Good-Paying Careers in the Downstream - At No Cost to You
A number of oil and gas-related jobs remain in high demand, and they are witnessing healthy year-on-year wage growth. In fact, the need to fill these positions is so strong that at least one major contractor on the U.S. Gulf Coast is offering free training to help individuals with varying backgrounds qualify for these opportunities.
"Skilled craft professionals are in high demand not only in the Gulf Coast, but throughout the United States," said Jim Hanna, Fluor Corp.'s vice president for construction and fabrication human resources, craft services and industrial relations.
Fluor, which has secured contracts with major downstream players in the region such as BASF, LyondellBasell and Sasol, recently opened a U.S. Gulf Coast craft training center near Houston. The facility offers entry-level craft training in the electrical, instrumentation, millwright and pipefitting trades. Moreover, it offers experienced, active welders advanced training. Tuition for the 12-week entry-level craft training program is free for students.
"In the Gulf Coast, we have seen the wage rates for mechanical craft increase around 6 to 8 percent over the past year because qualified personnel are in such high demand," continued Hanna. "The U.S. Gulf Coast Craft Training center creates new opportunities for individuals to embark on the workforce of the future."
DownstreamToday recently caught up with Hanna to learn more about Fluor's craft training offerings, which are available to recent high school graduates as well as individuals seeking a career change. Applicants to Fluor's program need to understand that the training is rigorous and the resulting career paths are demanding, and success on both fronts begins with the right attitude, Hanna said. Read on for more of his insights about the training center as well as opportunities for craft professionals in the downstream.
DownstreamToday: What niche does Fluor's Gulf Coast craft training center fill?
Hanna: Demand for skilled craft professionals is at extremely high levels as the construction industry, as a whole, has not done well at revitalizing and developing its workforce over the past decade. With the number of projects going on across the United States, combined with retiring owners’ organizations, there is an industry-wide shortage of skilled craft professionals.
This significant investment to develop and open the training center enables Fluor to help mitigate the industry-wide shortage of skilled craft professionals by providing training to enable individuals to embark on these high-demand, well-paying careers.
Through the U.S. Gulf Coast Craft Training Center, Fluor provides entry-level, pre-employment training in the electrical, instrumentation, millwright and pipefitting disciplines. The 12-week classes are led by NCCER-certified trainers with extensive industry experience, with approximately 60 to 75 students in each session.
Upon successful course completion, trainees receive industry-recognized, entry-level credentials in the NCCER Core Curriculum, as well as NCCER Level I and II certifications in one of the four trades. Equipped with these portable, industry-recognized certifications, graduates can apply for craft positions in industrial construction throughout the country. In addition to this entry-level training, we have expanded our welder upgrade training program to this location to help meet the demand for skilled welders.
Fluor has offered welder upgrade training and after-hours training at our jobsites in various crafts for decades; however, this is the first time we have offered pre-employment, entry-level training.
DownstreamToday: Why is pursuing a career as an electrical, instrumentation, millwright or pipefitting specialist in the Gulf Coast's downstream sector a good move?
Hanna: There are numerous opportunities to enter the industry and have a well-paying career. As the human resources executive responsible for Fluor’s Construction and Fabrication business, I also track salaried personnel staffing, and it is easier for me to place a skilled craft professional than it is to place someone with a four-year degree.
Skilled craft professionals, such as those in the electrical, instrumentation, millwright and pipefitting disciplines, are in demand throughout the United States to support projects in a number of regions, not just the U.S. Gulf Coast downstream sector. We are hiring for positions in Kentucky, Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia to support projects in the petrochemical, power and industrial sectors.
Many projects work 50 to 60 hours a week, enabling some skilled craft professionals, such as welders, to earn six-figure salaries, in addition to benefits and a per diem if you are away from home. The industry also offers long-term career growth, as trainees can advance to journeymen level or supervisory status as they gain experience. By embarking on a career in a skilled trade, individuals have the opportunity to be a part of some of the biggest construction projects in the country.
DownstreamToday: What can an experienced welder achieve career-wise through your advanced welder training program?
Hanna: Fluor … offers pre-employment [and] tuition-free welder upgrade training at two locations in Houston to help meet the demand for skilled welders. Welders applying for the training must be experienced, drug-free and capable of doing structural and plate welds. Through the training, which would cost around $10,000 if not covered by Fluor, welders can upgrade their skills to include boiler and pipe tube welding. These types of skilled welders are in high demand for heavy industrial projects, enabling them to increase their earnings.
DownstreamToday: What kind of person will excel in Fluor's craft training program and, more importantly, once he or she has completed it?
Hanna: A trainee's background is not nearly as important as their desire to learn. Applicants that excel, both in the training and on the job, will be those that are motivated, willing to learn, have a good work ethic – coming to class and work, and be drug-free.
Students in the craft training program have ranged from individuals who have just graduated from high school to a retired police officer who was interested in learning a new trade.
To be considered for the program, individuals must be at least 18 years old, be drug-free and pass a basic math test.
DownstreamToday: Why might the program be a good fit for a displaced upstream worker?
Hanna: This program would be a good fit for any individual that is motivated, willing to learn and has a good work ethic. The program is a good opportunity for an individual to improve their skills and quality of life, regardless of background. Individuals can have a rewarding career and future opportunities if they commit to the demands of the job.
Skilled craft professionals have the opportunity to follow the work if they choose – as a project wraps up in one area of the country, there is typically another project starting up in a different location.
DownstreamToday: Fluor is providing training free of charge to participants. What does Fluor expect in return?
Hanna: Fluor recognizes that our greatest asset is our people. With that in mind, we combine this pre-employment training with the after-hours classroom training offered at our jobsites, on-the-job/hands-on training, supervisory training and welder upgrade training to continuously develop employees throughout each stage of their careers.
Students are under no obligation to work for Fluor after they graduate from the U.S. Gulf Coast Training Center or from our welder upgrade training.