It’s all hands on deck to spread the word that when it comes to jobs, Ohio is hiring — and it’s largely due to the fact that the gross state product is approaching $100 billion thanks largely to shale investments, according to JobsOhio.
The upward trajectory of shale-related employment comes as no surprise, considering the latest federal government data show oil and gas activities led to the strongest statewide economic gains in 2017. This reality has led to headlines in Ohio reporting that hundreds of jobs are currently available in the Appalachian region. In response and in preparation for the surge in available jobs, the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program (OOGEEP) recently unveiled a series of 28 modern career videos highlighting more than 75 in-demand jobs associated with shale development. The goal? To address the supply and demand issues created by the surge of “in-demand” jobs which require well trained and qualified candidates. Here’s a look at some of the jobs currently available in Ohio.
EID recently spoke with Rhonda Reda, Executive Director with OOGEEP about their video series and her take on ways her organization, and others, are collaborating to address workforce development.
EID: Can you give us a general overview of the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program?
Reda: OOGEEP was created 20 years ago to provide a variety of public outreach, educational and safety programs on behalf of the Ohio natural gas and crude oil industry. Our programs include teacher workshops, career events, science fairs, scholarships, industry safety trainings, scouting programs, firefighter trainings, economic impact studies, community events and speaking presentations just to name a few.
EID: Congratulations on 20 years, by the way. Can you tell us more about the “Oil and Gas Careers in Ohio Video Series” and what OOGEEP is working on now?
Reda: About six years ago, the industry charged OOGEEP with creating and developing a variety of workforce development initiatives. To start, OOGEEP created a unique Oil and Gas Career Guide that featured more than 75 different in-demand jobs, descriptions and educational requirements. From there, OOGEEP began working with educational and training institutions throughout Ohio to evaluate, update and promote their respective qualified programs specific to these industry careers. Today, OOGEEP is now working with more than 90 different colleges, universities, technical and apprenticeship programs that offer certificate, one-year, two-year and four-year degree opportunities. OOGEEP also created a Scholarship Foundation to help support students pursuing career and training opportunities in our industry. In 2007, OOGEEP awarded seven scholarships, and just a little over 10 years later, that scholarship program is now awarding in excess of 50 new scholarships a year. Over the last three years, OOGEEP, in partnership with API, supplemented our other career and scholarship programs and began filming a series of career video clusters that represent all 75 plus careers. We shot footage at more than 50 locations. This has been an enormous project, and we are so excited that these videos are now ready to be shared. In the fall, we will be hosting a large statewide event that will include students, teachers and guidance counselors, so that they can start utilizing all these industry funded career and workforce development tools. In the near future, we will also be adding school career kits, and personalized job assessments.
EID: Does OOGEEP collaborate with Ohio schools and other groups who try to help address unemployment in the state?
Reda: In addition to the 90 different colleges, universities and technical schools already mentioned, OOGEEP also has a positive relationship with the Ohio Department of Education, Board of Regents, Governor’s Office on Workforce Transformation, Jobs Ohio and the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services just to name a few. It is all about collaboration and teamwork! Everyone has the same goal . . . long term job security with excellent salaries and benefits. Throughout the year, OOGEEP also hosts a number of STEM Teacher Workshops which include a career component. To date, we have had teachers from all 88 counties in Ohio participate.
EID: Recently, an OhioMeansJobs Guernsey County Employment Specialist said, “We get calls each day from employers desperately needing their job orders filled, from truck drivers to machine operators. There are simply not enough well trained and qualified candidates to meet their demand.” Her sentiment seems to be consistent with the fact that unemployment figures are staying the same even though there are hundreds of jobs available, particularly along the Ohio River Valley. What is your take on this?
Reda: I agree. We hear the exact same concern expressed by our industry partners. We are hoping that through these workforce initiatives, we can help promote and secure more of these in demand jobs needed by everyone. However, too often there are also misperceptions made about the jobs in our industry, and many do not realize the wide variety of different career paths available. I think we also need to do a better job promoting those careers involving trades. Recently, we learned at a guidance counselor conference, that only 21 percent of high school seniors that start out seeking a four-year degree actually finish school and get their diploma. That leaves 79% of students wondering what is next! We have to help provide them with other options that can lead to amazing careers! Finally, we must also continue to address the drug problem —- this is a local, statewide and nationwide issue. The reality is that there are too many candidates that are simply unemployable. We all need to work on this issue.
EID: What tools have you found, in your experience over the past 20 years, which have made the most impact with students?
Reda: I think providing incentives (science fair and scholarship awards) has certainly helped engage many students. OOGEEP also does a lot of classroom presentations, and we provide a lot of job information, so it is very exciting to see a student suddenly intrigued about becoming a welder or a machinist too. College is not for everyone, so it is really nice to be able to showcase so many careers, and this is very unique to have an industry, like ours, that can provide such a variety.
In addition to the video series, there’s an incredible amount of ways that the public is able to learn more about “in demand” jobs — but a good place to start is OOGEEP. The fact of the matter is that shale development has both directly and indirectly led to the addition of over 100,000 jobs in Ohio. Perhaps it time to fire back up the job fairs, because it’s obvious that Ohio is open for business and hiring — thanks to the oil and gas industry!