A shortage of trained workers is the "No. 1 constraint" in the Bakken oil patch, prompting industry leaders this week to look for solutions.
Workforce was the main topic as more than 500 oil and gas officials and state leaders participated in the North Dakota Petroleum Council annual meeting this week in Watford City.
State Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms estimates the state has seven to 10 drilling rigs "that are sitting in the yard that do not have crews."
“We have equipment but we don’t have the workforce," Helms said. "So that’s our No. 1 issue.”
Oil prices as high as $100 will attract out-of-state workers, but more moderate oil prices will require growing a local workforce, Helms said.
A project in the works in McKenzie County that is projected to help meet those workforce needs is the Bakken Area Skills Center. Superintendent Steve Holen of McKenzie County School District #1 told attendees the center is set to provide hands-on technical classes for high school students while also offering post-secondary training and education that helps meet demands from area employers.
The Bakken Area Skills Center "is going to be a critical piece of growing our own technically trained workforce in North Dakota,” Helms said. The Watford City-based center is set to be completed next November with classes beginning by the end of 2023.
Education leaders also participated in the conference, including discussing a proposed scholarship program called Re-Energize North Dakota. State Board of Higher Education member Kevin Black said the program would provide tuition dollars for people working in the oil and gas industry and also retrain workers who have departed the energy sector.
“We’ll be looking to our friends in the Legislature to help us craft this, but I think it is an important step to attracting students to North Dakota. Frankly, today, we don’t have enough graduating high school seniors to meet the demand,” said Black, CEO of Creedence Energy Services.