By Tim Hernandez
The downward trend in crude oil prices over the last seven months has caused concern over future prospects among students enrolled in the oil and gas technology program at Palo Alto College.
Valentino Casias, a sophomore in the program, said, “I got concerned about it a little. Mr. Alvarado reassured me that the training would help in other companies. Other fields other than oil.”
Casias kept his eye on the oil industry as a possible new career field and opted to enroll before prices dropped.
“The boost in the oil industry made me decide to check out the program,” he said. “I had been watching it for awhile.”
Another sophomore in the program, Samuel Richard said, “I graduated high school during the height of the boom. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I heard about the program and decided to give it a shot.”
Richard shared Casias’ concerns. “At first, maybe it made me a bit nervous, but when I met people in the field, they told me to relax and that I would be able to find a job.”
Richard is willing to travel for work but did set some limitations for himself. “If I wasn’t able to find a job locally, I would be willing to travel to find a job in the country or even outside of the country,” he said.
“I wouldn’t be willing to travel to the Middle East to work, because I think a lot of that money would go to Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.”
How much impact the drop in crude oil prices has on the oil and gas industry job market is yet to be seen, but Professor Ronald K. Brown, the program’s lead instructor, said “The production side is the area that is being hit. The process side is coming up because of the need for more refinery workers to process the influx of crude in the market.”
Brown told his students not to be overly concerned about the changing demand for new employees in the oil and gas industries.
“The training allows them to go across industries,” Brown said. “Utilities such as CPS Energy and SAWS, and chemical companies like Dow, Dupont, the big ones, do have a need for people with the skills taught in the program.
Brown mentioned one graduate who is working at Calumet Specialty Products Partners, near South Presa, making six figures.
PAC began offering the program in the fall of 2013 in support of the Eagle Ford Shale fracking operations. The program is a stacked model program designed to take two years to complete. During the first four months, students earn an entry-level certificate that is applied to the associate degree.
The Texas Workforce Commission Skills Development Fund provided the college with $300,000 for training equipment. The training equipment provides hands-on experience for students that is consistent with industry standards.
For more information, call oil and gas technology at (210) 486-3330.