Oil job seekers look for openings

One thing U.S. Sen. Rob Portman says he doesn’t like seeing in Ohio is out-of-state license plates on the vehicles of natural gas and oil workers.

“I would rather be sure we have workers from in-state,” Portman, R-Ohio, said Monday morning.

That’s one of the reasons he decided to partner with the Ohio Oil and Gas Association and the Youngstown / Warren Regional Chamber on the Mahoning Valley Energy Jobs Fair held Monday in Boardman.

The event brought out more than 700 job seekers to the Boardman Holiday Inn, most of whom were waiting patiently throughout the day to chat with 27 different employers or 14 educators and agencies about job openings and training opportunities. Job hunters seemed to be an even mix of those that were unemployed and those already employed but looking to improve. It also was a good mix of both skilled and unskilled, entry level job seekers.

“I am laid off right now and trying to see what direction to go,” said job seeker Jason Traenkle of Warren. With his mechanical background in parts and service, he said he is considering returning to college to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering.

Meanwhile Sean Ivan of Youngstown said he was on temporary layoff, but really wanted to see if there were better opportunities where he could put his environmental science degree to use.

Welding and truck driving seemed to provide the most openings for the growing Ohio energy industry as horizontal drillers hope to continue growth in the burgeoning Utica Shale Play, a massive fairway thousands of feet below eastern Ohio believed to contain pockets of both dry and wet natural gases along with oil.

While none of the sponsors could say specifically how many jobs were available at Monday’s event, each employer promised to have at least some energy openings.

Skilled positions included pipeline electricians, drafters, surveyors, heavy duty electricians and millwrights. Entry level, non skilled, positions included things like water pump station operators, laborers, equipment operators, dispatchers, sales and operations managers.

Beth Reiner of Dearing Compressor said she had spoken to several job seekers throughout the morning and was hopeful some would be good fits for openings at the company that builds gas compressors for the oil and gas industry. Reiner said the Youngstown-based company has been in operation since 1945, decades before the latest boom brought about by discovery of the Utica Shale.

The natural gas drilling industry supported nearly 39,000 Ohio jobs last year, according to a study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy. The agency predicted that number could grow to as many as 266,000 jobs in the Buckeye state by 2035.

In 2012, the industry directly or indirectly contributed about $4.1 billion into Ohio’s economy, or gross state product. By 2035, the total value added to the state’s economy will be more than $35 billion, according to the study released early this year.

Brenda J. Linert is a writer at the Tribune Chronicle of Warren, a sister paper to the Salem News in the Ogden Newspapers Group. You can reach her at blinert@tribtoday.com.