Preparing a New Generation of Workers for Oilfield Success

The need to find and train new workers is an ongoing concern for many oil and gas businesses. As more experienced personnel retire from the workforce, it is imperative that a new generation of workers is available to step up and replace the vacancies. And yet, many companies have trouble finding qualified candidates for the available positions. That is why Danos is working with customers and technical colleges to improve the pool of experienced workers entering the industry.

The Challenge

The lack of qualified applicants for available oil and gas production jobs can be attributed to many factors, but first among these is the general lack of hands-on technical training. Companies are looking for workers with more than just a two-year degree; they also want people with practical experience gained from on-the-job skill development.

Though a number of community colleges and technical schools offer oil and gas training programs, enrollment levels have been low in recent years. This is due in part to the lack of awareness among students, particularly women, of the opportunities that exist in oil and gas. The struggle of graduates to secure a position without additional work experience is likely also part of the story.

In order to help address these issues, Danos’ internship program has two major aims: first, to provide a solution for the industry talent gap with a more inclusive and diverse workforce, and second, to help ensure students in the programs receive job-relevant training and opportunities with hands-on skill development. It’s about building a pipeline of talent that can help the industry continue to grow in coming years.

The Program

Danos is tackling both of these challenges through its innovative internship program. This program offers students enrolled in oil and gas production degree programs the opportunity to work offshore and gain valuable job experience. By intentionally promoting the program to students of varied backgrounds and demographics, and by providing practical experience, Danos is contributing to the growth of diverse new talent for the industry.

Each student in the program spends six to nine months receiving hands-on training in an offshore environment. Field internships are made possible through the support of oil and gas operators (Danos customers) as well as the schools’ willingness to accommodate an offshore schedule. During the internship, students work 14-days on followed by 14-days off. Currently, all interns are placed in offshore environments, but Danos would like to eventually offer onshore placements as well.

Internships typically focus on production operations or instrumentation and electrical (I&E). Students are assigned a mentor working for the operator, who is responsible for directing their learning and providing feedback and assessments. The interns generally shadow multiple employees around all areas of the offshore facility, performing tasks like walking rounds, checking levels and valves, assisting with work on compressors, introductory control room work and more. The goal is to give the intern as broad an experience as possible with hands-on tasks and exposure to day-to-day operations. Though the training is offshore, it also helps the intern qualify for work in the onshore environment, like plants or other industrial facilities, expanding their job prospects even further.

By offering interns on-the-job learning opportunities with support and mentoring from industry professionals, the program helps these students build skill sets and gain experience that truly sets them apart. Danos works directly with customers and schools to ensure that interns are meeting goals and that training programs are aligned with industry needs.

Former intern Shantel Tanner says, “the internship was 100% beneficial in every aspect. It allowed me to get the feel of the entire deepwater experience. In addition to gaining valuable knowledge on compliance for deepwater, I was able to obtain transferable skills useful on any production platform.” A native of Dulac, La., Tanner worked as an intern operator on BHP's Neptune platform before graduating from Fletcher Technical Community College in December 2018. She has since been hired as an operator trainee on a deepwater Gulf of Mexico platform for a major operator. She is happy to be back offshore again, working the same 14-day rotation as she did during her internship. “I feel like I have finally found a job that I really enjoy doing,” she says.

Very few entry-level job applicants can boast this kind of industry experience, so it gives Danos interns a significant advantage when applying for jobs. Not to mention the valuable feedback they receive along the way helps them to be better prepared for immediate success in the offshore environment. Plus, the internships pay well, with competitive hourly rates. During the 14-day hitch, interns also have the opportunity to earn overtime pay.

The Schools

Managing this internship program to provide valuable field experience in the offshore environment is just part of Danos’ approach. The company has also engaged directly with schools like Fletcher Technical Community College, Southwest Mississippi Community College, Nicholls State University and SOWELA Technical Community College as they each have worked in developing their curriculum to better fit the needs of the industry and assist students in preparing for a career in oil and gas.

Danos has participated in advisory groups and provided feedback to instructors on gaps in student training and curriculum, and the company has encouraged each school to support student efforts to attain various industry certifications. For example, a number of schools have provided greater financial and institutional support for students earning their Production Safety Systems (T2) certification while still in school. Some have secured grant funds to help students pay for the training, and others have had their staff certified as American Petroleum Institute approved instructors, enabling schools to award certifications. This training makes their graduates more competitive for the jobs available in the industry. Many entry-level hires do not get their T-2 certification until they have been on the job for six months, the cost of which is typically paid by the employer.

After only a few years, the impact of this collaboration is already being felt. According to Fletcher’s Dr. Clint A. Coleman, dean of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), and Noel B. George Jr., STEM department head, “the Danos internship program is an invaluable addition to our students’ educational experience.”

He reports that students returning from offshore internships are excited to tell their instructors and fellow students about their hands-on experiences.

“This natural excitement spreads throughout the classroom and energizes their fellow students.” As a result, Fletcher saw increased enrollment in the IPT (Integrated Production Technology) program, enabling the school to recruit “50 new IPT students in Fall 2019!”

Other schools, like Southwest Mississippi Community College, have also found the internship program to be beneficial. Jim McKinley, instructor and chair for OGPT [Oil and Gas Production Technology] in career and technical education, says that his school’s OGPT program’s enrollment “continues to grow because of our high job placement rate working with companies like Danos.”

Growing the Pool

Part of attracting more students to energy careers requires expanding the pool of participants to include people of all ages and backgrounds, including veterans and more women. While women have always held jobs in the oil and gas industry, they are increasingly moving into positions in fieldwork, including offshore rigs. The offshore work environment is evolving, enabling a more diverse range of people to find not only well-paying jobs but successful careers.

Since the program began, 14 students have completed internships, and nearly all have landed jobs upon graduation. What’s more, those 14 interns ranged in age from 19 to mid-40s, and eight have been women.

Part of the challenge is changing perceptions about the oil and gas industry. Newer industries like tech appeal to younger generations, and some may see the energy industry as old-fashioned or as one with an uncertain future. It is up to businesses and professional associations, and on-the-job learning programs like this one, to show students that workers of all backgrounds and demographics can find great success via energy careers. By promoting a work environment that welcomes diversity and inclusion in the industry, Danos is working to encourage a greater sense of belonging and purpose among all employees.

The Impact:

In addition to the program benefits for students, it also serves the needs of oil and gas businesses and the industry as a whole. Danos’ internship program has already demonstrated success bringing a wider range of workers into the industry at a time when they are greatly needed. The program has led to improved curricula and development of a more competent and diverse applicant pool available to address the needs of operators and producers. It has also generated greater enthusiasm and awareness of the benefits of oil and gas careers, leading to greater enrollment levels at technical schools and colleges. All of these advances help to strengthen the pipeline of talent needed to power the industry into the future.

The Customer Perspective:

One of the primary partners in Danos’ internship program is BHP Billiton, the fifth-largest company in the world, known for Australian mining but also active in the Gulf of Mexico. The company is committed to developing a workforce and culture that reflects the communities in which it operates.

“We started considering the inclusion and diversity element of the company,” says John Ford, Gulf of Mexico Field Manager for BHP. “We saw a lot of improvement over the past few years but felt we hit a plateau, so the next step was to look at changing our offshore workforce and have it look more like the communities where we live. The intern program is a foundational effort making our inclusion and diversity efforts sustainable.”

One way BHP has adapted to a more diverse workforce is by increasing the number of women working on its platforms. This ensures that new female employees have a higher degree of comfort and can find support when needed. It also means male employees are learning to work alongside women in the offshore environment. By fostering a workplace that is supportive for all employees, BHP can maximize the available pool of talent.

Why Danos?

Danos is a family-owned company, driven by deeply held values, vision and purpose. It’s something that sets the company apart, guiding its actions in everything from high-level strategy to day-to-day worker interactions. Its core purpose is honoring God and developing great people to solve big challenges for its customers and communities. In the face of a clear industry need for a larger pool of competent, task ready applicants, the company asked itself what it could do. This internship program is a reflection of Danos’ commitment to being a leader in the industry, from operational excellence and customer service to community investment and growth. Among the company’s core values, improvement is one of the most important. Danos is always seeking ways to improve its own operations, solve customer problems and tackle big challenges for the benefit of all. Through support of its customers and collaboration with participating schools and colleges, Danos is helping to reshape efforts to bring new workers into the industry. They’re making a difference, one intern at a time.

To learn more about the program and how your company can get involved, email Danos Recruiting Coordinator Jessica Stegall at jessica.stegall@danos.com.