Hundreds of job-seekers converged on the Gas and Oil Employment EXPO last Friday at the Green County Fairgrounds in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. Resumes, handshakes, and business cards were exchanged as visitors talked to companies about opportunities driven largely by the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania.
By Ed Becker,
There were two common lines overheard at the Oil and Gas Employment EXPO on Friday, June 17.
“Are you hiring?”
“We are hiring at this time.”
This dialogue was repeated with some variation throughout the EXPO as job-seekers and company representatives met face-to-face to hopefully make productive, meaningful connections with one another.
A recent study by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry bears out the fact that both groups are seeking each other out. Last year, more than 48,000 people were employed by industries related to Marcellus Shale activity. Nine thousand of them were hired just in the first part of this year.
The purpose of this employment EXPO was to be a “matchmaker” of sorts—providing a venue for job-seekers and companies to come together. Based on the numbers, Barbara Cole, PA Career Link Administrator, says the event was quite successful and bears out the trend towards more hiring due to the natural gas industry in southwestern Pennsylvania.
“This is our third year for the Oil and Gas Employment EXPO,” states Cole. “Last year we had 38 companies and 857 job seekers. This year we had 56 companies represented and more than 921 job seekers. “
The Tri-County Oil and Gas Committee is the sponsor of the Employment EXPO. PA CareerLink works in conjunction with them. The County of Greene provided the use of the Greene County Fairgrounds and county maintenance employees for set up, Windstream provided the DSL Service for the day.
It would have been difficult to label a “typical” job-seeker at the event. According to Cole, there was a broad cross-section of blue collar and white collar workers in attendance. It was not uncommon to see a 50-year-old with twenty-five years of experience as a truck driver standing in line next to a 21 year-old woman who just graduated from Penn State with a degree in landscape architecture a week earlier.
Bryan Fitzwilliams will graduate from Penn Commercial in Washington, PA with a Bachelors in computer network administration. Although he acknowledged many of the jobs seemed to be for blue collar, labor workers, he did optimistically believe the employment field needs all types of professionals.
“Most of the companies here need Information Technology workers,” said Fitzwilliams. “Although the focus appears to be towards hiring skilled labor, there is still a lot of opportunity for people like myself with a more technology-based background.”
Cole said that there was a wide range of job opportunities to be found.
“We had many openings for professional jobs such as engineers, geologists, human resources, land management, semi-skilled jobs like technicians, supervisors, and mechanics and then there were openings for CDL truck drivers, roustabouts and laborers.”
The diversity was no less apparent among the companies that were represented at the EXPO. Moreover, it wasn’t just businesses looking to hire, but also some trade/vocational schools and programs hoping to attract new students.
Timothy Angert is an adult education administrative assistant with the Western Area Career and Technology Center (WACTC) in Canonsburg. He explained that many of the job-seekers at the event learned about the skills expected by the companies, and WACTC was there to showcase their programs that provided education for those highly prized skills.
“It was great to see so many companies looking for qualified employees to work in the field. Many of the potential employees had extremely positive attitudes and where very appreciative that an event like that was happening,” Angert says.
“ As a training provider it was also a beneficial event, potential students came to us to learn about what we had to offer directly after talking to companies about their demands.”
One of the companies looking for skilled workers at the EXPO was Tradesman International, represented by General Manger, Jennifer Glass. Tradesmen International is a construction labor support company
that leases out skilled trades people on an as needed basis to companies in the construction, manufacturing/industrial and oil and gas industries across the country. They work the same way as a union hall but are non-union. The Pittsburgh office supports over 700 companies in Western, PA.
Glass said more than 100 people stopped by their booth throughout the day. Most of them were looking to get into the oil and gas industry. She outlined some of the specifics that Tradesman International is looking for in potential employees.
“We don’t hire anyone unless they have at least 1 year of construction or industrial background. Because we are selling skilled trades people, our recruiting process is very strict. I would say that
about 75% of who we hire have a specific trade skill set and more than 3 years of experience in the field. Twenty-five percent (cannot start with a number) are people with at least some kind of construction or industrial experience, “Glass explained.
When the event ended, job-seekers returned to their cars carrying company brochures, pockets full of business cards, and the hope of future interviews. Company representatives packed away hundreds of resumes from applicants, and prepared for the work of selecting new talent to fill their ranks.
Marcellus Shale Coalition Job Site
The Tri-County Oil and Gas EXPO of Fayette, Green and Washington Counties
Western Area Career & Technology Center (WACTEC)
Penn State: Pennsylvania College of Technology