Out-of-State Gas Workers Mean Continued High Unemployment

One of the criticisms of the Marcellus shale gas drilling industry is that although it brings with it an economic boom, including many jobs, sometimes those jobs are taken by out-of-state workers and not local workers. Drillers will say there are not enough skilled local workers to fill the positions. Labor leaders and local economic development officials will say, “Train them and there will be!”

According to Dave Efaw, secretary-treasurer of the West Virginia State Building and Construction Trades Council, local drillers need to step up to the plate and start hiring more local workers:

There is currently quite a discrepancy in Wetzel County. Last month, Wetzel was again ranked as having the highest unemployment rate in the state, but it also has the highest rate of natural gas drilling activity in the region. How can a county that’s booming with Marcellus Shale natural gas development still have record high unemployment?

Delegate Tim Manchin, D-Marion, knows the answer. "Wetzel County has the state’s highest unemployment rate, while the hotels are inundated with out-of-state workers," Manchin told a meeting of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in Charleston.

Wetzel citizens are watching the natural gas industry flourish in their own backyard, while RVs and trucks with license plates from Texas, Louisiana and other far-flung states roll in to do jobs local workers should be doing.

In a region that has both high unemployment as well as a trained, professional work force of men and women ready and anxious to work, there is absolutely no reason to import large numbers of out-of-state workers.

Dominion and other energy companies are big on publicizing their commitment to local communities and spreading a lot of token donations around to local organizations. However, big public-relations campaigns and a few donations aren’t going to help Wetzel County’s biggest problem: unemployment.

If the energy companies are truly committed to contributing to our local communities, whose natural resources mean billions to their bottom line, they need to hire locally.*

Read the rest of Mr. Efaw’s editorial by clicking the link below.

*The Charleston Gazette (Dec 6, 2011) – Dave Efaw: Drillers should be hiring locals

  • Anonymous

    The Oil and Gas Industry has always been this way and I can give a few examples as to why:  

    When a Company has a budget and they are finding higher production in other others they may choose to re-allocate that budget to different areas.  Also companies will take good workers that they have trained on other projects (locally or not)/or are already are trained and willing to travel as a career.

    Some aspects of the industry is a traveling one and not always a local one when looking at this in the “bigger picture of things” .  Some projects last a  1 year, 6 months, 3 years, etc., etc. for those certain types of professional services that these Traveling Contractors provide, or these professionals are there to help train the locals.  

    It is a job creator locally, and sometimes out of state workers become residents as well. (Please repeat this sentence–it’s called Interstate Commerce).  <<<Economists say that money changes hands 5 times in an area before leaving the area.

    It seems this type of article does not look at this in a "bigger picture way", maybe because of: " off base-protectionism"?   

    The Oil and Gas Industry is also a highly competitive/capital intensive business.  Sometimes training takes years of activity in an area for the Traveling Contractors to move on to the other higher paying jobs in other areas, to be closer to home or work for bigger more active companies, because they choose to to keep their residency raising a family in one place.  

    I have no doubt that when production is found and the initial "boom" activity dies down that it will create trained local professionals with high paying jobs, it will create non residents that choose to become locals because they like the Company, like the area, start a family, etc.  It most importantly will create locals that get trained that are willing to travel and the process starts all over again.

  • Anonymous

    This is code for “hire UNION workers” I work in the oil field and most of the workers I come in contact with are West Virginians. The employers’ biggest compaint is not being able to find “qualified” employees. To them “qualified” means 1) pass a drug test 2) have a CDL and 3) have no DUI on driving record. 4) Show up. If the unions have so many qualified people, why are they not applying for the work? Just asking…

  • dtsturrock

    First question: As a local resident, would I rather have a novice or a professional responsible for something with such high consequences when things go wrong? No one should have to think too hard on that one.

    Second question: Given that it is expensive to hire a professional from another state and pay them enough to keep them apart from their families, why would a company do that if there was local talent available?
    I can’t answer that, but I have some possibilities:
    –The professional level training takes a while. The training is happening, but hasn’t shown significant results yet.
    –Local people (unions?) have priced themselves out of the jobs.
    –Local people feel that society owes them a job and are too lazy to develop the skills necessary to become a professional. Or they have been lazy though all of school and so don’t even have the basic foundation to start technical training. (Unfortunately this is all too common now.)

    While anecdotes never prove anything, they often offer some insight. Her are a few anecdotes from totally different perspectives:
    1) I teach a technical college course that has a reputation for being worthwhile but difficult and time consuming. Historically less than 10% of the class participants are “local” (in this case meaning from the US). I believe that the problem is with the work ethic in the US, particularly among young people.
    2) Last summer I had openings for high paying technical interns in three very different fields. I would have preferred to fill those openings with “local” people. But after considering over a hundred candidates, the positions were filled with the best people who happened to be from India, China, and Morocco.
    3) I have a friend who had the aptitude and opportunity to attend a college or technical school at no cost, but he turned down repeated offers because he didn’t want to work that hard. So he has spent 10 years in dead-end, low-paying jobs that he hates and his family survives on the public dole.

  • tim kay

    tired of hearing out of state plates as the proof of outsiders, the trucks are registered out of state but driven but the employee’s many local…locals need to apply, be educated, pass backround checks and drug test, also be willing to start at entry level with no experience and work hard to move up….who here is going to welding school to learn how to weld a gas pipe????well if u want that job you better do something to get it. and if we had the skills they wouldnt need to have out of state workers..and i am sure the companies would like to save that per diem and hotel expenses if they could.

  • all very good views and opinions. I completly agree that if locals want the jobs they need to be or become qualified. it is the same as building a new hospital and bringing in doctors. i dont know anyone that would want someone unqalified to care for there health. I would however like to comment on how bringing all of the ” outsiders” here is suposed to be a good thing for our economy. unfortunatly it is not. i believe it is only going to continue to make things worse for those who are trying to raise there familys here. For ex. i work very closly with the public and have seen many familys loose pretty much everything because of the uprising prices. one lady who at a young age of 52 lost her husband to a battle with cancer. He was the main provider of the family (she did her part) . within the short 6 months from the time he was diagnosed to the time of his passing, they lost everything! they couldnt find new housing because every landowner thought they should jack the renting prices up because … simply the “outsiders’  were here…” they will pay”. Ironicly enough they tried for wht is known as subsidised housing,…. unfortunatly unavailable  ” because the “outsiders ” have come and used the system for all it had. and yes this is a fact!  well that is only a small portion of there story and there are many more…..  why should those of us ” who have been working the same jobs, and work very hard, (with out the $ 25 hr salery have to suffer.. we are only going to be left in the dust once the drilling is done. with our own people homeless and skyrocket prices.   so yes it would be nice if some of our own locals would step up to the plate and become what is need for our communities.

  • Anonymous

    When I graduated high school a big pipeline project came through my hometown. I showed up an hour before starting time asking anyone that would listen “do you need any help today?” After nearly 2 weeks I got hired as a laborer, no frills just solid honest work. That was 23 years and many positions ago. I’ve made a fine career working in numerous states and 2 foreign countries, always enjoying a good wage, healthcare, and pension. For us “out of state workers” it’s a profession, not just a job.The companies need experienced, safe, productive workers to make production requirements AND nurture the new workers along. I read in one of the comments that the “unions priced themselves out?’ Union pipeline construction is VERY strong right now with Precision, Michels, Miller, Appalachian, Price-Gregory, Welded, Midwest, and Sheehan all working in the shale plays of WV and Pa. The pipeline contractors agreement with the unions is 50% company hired, 50% local.

    Are the inflated prices the “out of state” worker’s fault or the greed of local business owners? 
    If someone says they “can’t get a job!”, I HIGHLY doubt it’s the out of state worker’s fault…….

  • Anonymous

    Wrknman and tim kay,  its about time that someone on this blog is making and talking SENCE. Its called hustle and determination that achieves. Wrknman is what America needs , he takes action, not just spewing out words. All you Anti’s out there, do you have any better ideas to bring this country out of the dumps? I’m listening!! Ideas that make ” sense”  are fiscally feasible, will bring thousands of jobs? Stop smoking pot and get off the couch, bring something to the table other than words.Wrknman might even hire your lazy butts and most of you can contribute to the economy, instead of taking from it.