career fair 2019

Lexi Christiensen, front left, and Samantha Nieves, talk to Oasis Petroleum’s Jared Iverson. He is general manager of operations for the exploration and production company.

Sophomores Lexi Christiensen and Samantha Nieves, both 15, are in oil class together at Williston High School.

Naturally, they came to the oil and gas industry’s career fair together as well.

They are two of three girls in the class, which Christiensen said has been an eye-opener for her.

“I just moved here, and I like it,” she said. “(The oilfield) is super big, and I did not know how many jobs there are.”

Nieves, meanwhile, is interested in an engineering track. She sees where the oilfield might be a good fit for her interests.

She likes the class because it’s covering the many different types of careers she could get into with an engineering degree.

The two girls were among nearly a hundred parents, students and even teachers from as far away as Plentywood who turned out to see what the oilfield has to offer for area youths.


Not all of the students attending were youths, however. Some were nontraditional students, also seeking entry to the oilfield. And these were just as welcome to companies like Oasis, Equinor, Hess, MBI and Titan, all present at the event to talk about the careers their company can offer in the oil and gas sector.

Representatives of Williston State College, University of North Dakota, Montana Tech, Bismarck State College and University of Mary, meanwhile talked about the educational pathways they can offer to get people to those careers. Many of the programs are available online, either in whole or in part.

That sounded particularly good to Nancy Pacheco, a nontraditional student at WSC.

“I thought I was going to have to move to finish my degree, and my husband is here working in Williston,” she said. “So that is great to know.”

Cindy Sanford, with Bank of North Dakota, talked about financing for educational pathways.

Among the programs, there is a new opportunity called Career Builders, a scholarship and loan repayment program. Information about it is online at

DAWA’s Jeff Zarling, who organized the career fair, offered statistics on the so-called “good” jobs, which are defined as 35k for workers 25 to 44 and $45,000 for workers 45 to 64.

High school is still among pathways that can lead to a “good” job.

“It’s in decline,” Zarling said. “But there’s still 13 million good jobs for workers with no more than a high school diploma, including people who worked their way up in fields like construction, manufacturing, retail, food services, and machine operators.”

Middle skills

The largest growth has been in the middle skills pathway, which includes things like firefighters, electricians and mechanics. That’s increased 83 percent from 1991 to 2016.

“There’s 16 million good jobs for workers on this pathway, accounting for 24 percent of all good jobs,” Zarling said.

The largest overall number of good jobs still comes from the bachelor of science pathway, with 36 million in that category.

This includes things like doctors, lawyers, accountants, computer programmers, architects, and managers. This category has doubled from 1991 to 2016.

Oil and gas, meanwhile, offers 10.3 million good jobs, a large percentage of which don’t require a four-year degree. An associates or a post-secondary certificate is all that’s needed.

Youths have more choices today to get to a good job, Zarling said. A four-year program is no longer a given.

“It’s about what approach will be right for you,” he said.

Focus on N.D.

Darren Schmidt, with Equinor, and a member of the Industrial Advisory Committee for University of North Dakota, said he wanted the students to understand the magnitude of the opportunities in the state.

“In the industry, we are building a lot of pipelines,” he said. “But we are also building an educational pipeline in the state. The base of that starts with the Alva J. Field scholarship, which is funded by mineral leases.”

A number of those leases also happen to be Equinor leases, Schmidt added.

“We are so very proud of that,” he said. “That is extended to anyone in the region, North Dakota, Montana and Canada. The pipeline we have built is a 2 and 2 program with University of North Dakota in petroleum engineering.”

That means two years at Williston State College that leads seamlessly into two years at UND in the petroleum program.

“The starting salary for that is $143,000,” Schmidt said.

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