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Oil Boom Brings High-Paying Industry Jobs to Area

Thu June 07, 2018 - National Edition
Emily Buenzle

Industry professionals, including drillers, service providers and trucking companies, have been enticing workers from all sorts of professions to fill an influx of oil jobs.
Industry professionals, including drillers, service providers and trucking companies, have been enticing workers from all sorts of professions to fill an influx of oil jobs.

The shale-oil boom in the Permian Basin, located in Texas and New Mexico, is luring workers from all sorts of industries with high-paying jobs.

This is currently the nation's busiest oil area, with the rig count increasing by one-third over the past year, Bloomberg reported. As a result, industry professionals, including drillers, service providers and trucking companies, have been enticing workers with basic skills from all sorts of professions, including police officers, grocery workers, restaurant employees, bus drivers and more, to fill an influx of oil jobs.

Great Opportunities

“It is crazy,” said Jazmin Jimenez, who recently completed a two-week training program at New Mexico Junior College before becoming a well-pump checker for Chevron Corp. “Honestly, I never thought I'd see myself at an oilfield company. But now that I'm here — I think this is it,” Bloomberg reported.

Jimenez now makes $28 per hour—double her salary at her previous job as a guard at the Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs, N.M. She plans to take the money for as long as this oil boom lasts.

In the classroom, programs training students to pass the commercial driver's license test are filled.

“A CDL is a golden ticket around here,” said Steve Sauceda, who is in charge of New Mexico Junior College's workforce training program. “You are employable just about anywhere.”

Once again, the salary for a truck driver in this area is much higher than other local jobs. Jeremiah Fleming will soon be making $140,000 driving flatbeds for Aveda Transportation & Energy Services, Inc., Bloomberg reported.

“This will be my best year yet,” said Fleming. “I wouldn't want to go anywhere else.”

This particular boom could last a while, Bloomberg reported, with oil companies paying close attention to costs, and new technology continuously emerging to make the production process quicker and easier than ever before. In Fact, the 75,000-sq.-mi. Permian Basin currently makes up around 30 percent of all U.S. oil production.

Emerging Challenges

For as good as this boom is for many, others in the area now face a unique set of challenges.

First, other, lower-paying industries are losing workers—and they can't easily find replacements. In Odessa, Texas, a multitude of school bus drivers from the Ector County Independent School District left for oil jobs. Without enough replacements, students were late to class. Similarly, Jerry Morales, mayor of Midland, Texas, and restaurant owner, now has trouble handling both the local government, which is 200 employees short, and his restaurants, where he is struggling to keep cooks.

With oil jobs offering much higher salaries, it's hard to compete, though Morales is trying.

For his restaurant employees, he now offers incentives like weekly, instead of biweekly, paychecks and more chances for workers to earn overtime, Bloomberg reported. Morales has also begun to assure his employees of security if they stick with him. “Of you stay with me,” he tells them, “I can give you three quarters of what the oil will give you but you don't have to get dirty or worry about getting hurt.”

For his city employees, Morales would like to request raises, since Midland has seen year-over-year sales tax increases of 34 percent.

What's more, high demand for housing has driven housing costs up. In Midland, housing costs are the highest since June 2014, the last time oil prices were over $100 a barrel, Bloomberg reported. This has proved challenging for the Ector County Independent School District, which is more than 100 teachers short. According to District Spokesman Mike Adkins, the high cost of living has deterred teachers from taking those positions.

“That really surprised me,” said Adkins, as the state has a reputation for being affordable. “In Texas, yes — except here.”

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