A rise in minority employment in the oil and gas sector, predicted by the American Petroleum Institute (API) in 2015, will still hold true, even if the number of jobs overall has been slowed by an unpredicted drop in oil prices, Leanne Wheeler, an Air Force veteran and volunteer chair of Colorado Vets4Energy told TI News Daily.
“We’re seeing job slowdowns here (in the oil and gas industry) in Colorado as a result, but we expect to see growth on the minority side, and that I think will hold, whether we’re talking a thousand jobs or a hundred jobs," Wheeler said.
Wheeler said oil and gas companies have made an “intentional” effort to increase the minority presence in its workforce. However, Wheeler said she's concerned that the report lumps different groups together and may not accurately reflect some of the challenges that still need to be addressed.
Part of the API report, for example, anticipates growth in female employment in the oil and gas industry, but much of the growth, roughly 63 percent, is expected to come in the low- or unskilled trades. In this area, the report said, interest in the sector's jobs by women was expected to remain low, and even drop, despite the opportunities that aim to attract them.
“We haven’t done a good job of managing our women in these industries as far as expectations about it” Wheeler said. “We have to think about it as, there are women who wish to work, and her needs are different from the male worker.”
Part of the problem, Wheeler said, is that the industry has been built around long hours, including mandatory overtime hours, which is not geared toward many families in which women are the primary caregivers for children. The hours, Wheeler said, are both a source of good income as well as a source of pride, resulting in an industry wary of making the workforce changes necessary to accommodate working moms.
“It's great money -- particularly for men … who want to make good money," Wheeler said. "They’re not inclined to have a conversation about how we might bring women on and create an innovative way to bring women on … they’re not going to say that because now they don’t want to risk losing that money.”
Those hiring for blue-collar jobs, particularly, have been more welcoming of people willing to work. Wheeler said policies need to be put in place, regardless of demographics, that open the door for people who are willing to work to become employed, such as migrant workers or those released from prison.
“There are certain job sites, if you show up, you got your tools, you’re ready to work … then you’re all right,” Wheelr said. “It’s a hypothetical at best that these folks have come in the right way and have managed to find themselves in this industry free and clear.”
As campaign season gets into full swing, proposed rules on migrant-worker visas or amnesty could have an impact on one of the few areas in which the labor force is seeing growth, though Wheeler admitted she had no way of guessing what impact a given policy could have. Wheeler said the oil and gas industry should put more focus on hiring people who want to live and work in the U.S. -- and, as a consequence, spend money and pay taxes.
“Truth be told, there’s only one group of people who belong here; everyone else got here some way or another,” Wheeler said. “Once we figure what that process ought to look like, then just on pure natural migration, I would expect that number (of immigrant workers) to be high.”
As of July, Brent Crude was trading at approximately $48 per barrel, based on data compiled by Tradingeconomics.com, after hitting a 10-year-plus low of roughly $30 per barrel at the start of the year. The data also said Brent Crude was trading at over $110 per barrel around the time the API report was released in 2014.