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How the Oil Boom Labor Market Has Changed Colleges In the Oil Patch - 26,000 New Oil Wells by 2037

Updated on January 12, 2014

Gas, Oil and Education

North Dakota needs 100s of additional workers for the Oil & Natural Gas Industry in an Oil Boom set to last to mid-century. Colleges and Universities are ready to serve this workers with much needed short-term training at the cost of the employer and under various grant funding.

The locations of colleges and universities in North Dakota roughly follow a grid of lines along Highway 2, I-94, and I-29/Highway 81. This grid, especially in the western half of the state, encompasses the Williston Basin and Bakken oil fields (see map below). The colleges and universities along this grid have begun to develop short-term classes for training and certifications that oil field workers need.

Since 2009 and an oil boom that has increased jobs and strengthened the economy of Northwestern North Dakota, the state's colleges and universities have examined their course and degree offerings with an eye toward matching them more closely to the needs of the Oil & Natural Gas Industry.

Grid of Jobs and Training

Williston ND:
Williston, ND 58801, USA

get directions

Minot ND:
Minot, ND, USA

get directions

Grand Forks AFB ND:
Grand Forks AFB, ND 58214, USA

get directions

Fargo ND:
Fargo, ND, USA

get directions

Jamestown ND:
Jamestown, ND, USA

get directions

Bismarck ND:
Bismarck, ND, USA

get directions

Dickinson ND:
Dickinson, ND 58601, USA

get directions

New Town Oil Boom Location:
New Town, ND 58763, USA

get directions

North Dakota Oil!


Wider Range of Jobs Than Expected

The Oil Patch needs the usual people for operating drilling rigs, pumpjacks, and other machines and rigs; but requires many more types of jobs than many expected.

Other High Demand Jobs include those of airgun operators, seismic drillers and helpers, surveyors, managers, engineers, welders, medics, chemists, biologists, environmentalists, technologists, cooks, computer programmers, and dozens more. Employers have begun sending workers to local colleges and universities for short-term certifications in safety, CDL licensing and many more skills.


Williston State College: An Example for Change

Williston State College became the first venue in North Dakota to offer GED (high school diploma equivalency) testing online on March 6, 2012. This happened in the school's Adult Learning Center where GED classes are taught in order to help community residents complete high school and enter the local high demand job market. This is the Oil Boom.

Hundreds of oil workers that are nontraditional students arrive at Williston State College on a daily basis in order to learn the materials in safety courses and study related materials for their jobs in the Oil Boom. Adding additional services and more classes that will help this pool of workers will keep the doors to Williston open, so the leadership of the school decided for an ongoing program of improvements to serve this population. The Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan coming to and end bring yet more nontraditional students to Williston and other colleges in the form of US Veterans. Both 2- and 4-year degrees will be in high demand.

Jobs Increased 50,000% from 2010 to 2012

Williston plans to quickly add a four-year business degree to equip workers to become managers in Oil & Natural Gas. Students will come from Northwest North Dakota and Northeast Montana. Already, Williston offers dozens of oil field related classes in safety, first aid, office management, CDL, computer training, and other useful courses for certification in the short-term.

The National Center for Education Statistics tells us that 38% of college-enrolled persons are over the age of 25. Thus, academic cohorts are aging on average right along with the nation's aging population. Under the Obama Administration, individuals receiving Unemployment Insurance payments are permitted to use their time on Unemployment to attend college. Many downsized and laid off workers, as well as displaced homemakers, are going to college in their late 30s to 50s, because of this benefit. The percentage of students in 2- or 4-year colleges in 2019 that are per 25 years of age is estimated to reach 61% of total enrolled students. The usual 18- to 22-year-old will be in the minority.

Schools Planning the Additional Changes first

Williston State College, Williston ND:
Williston State College, 1410 University Ave, Williston, ND 58801-4464, USA

get directions

Dickinson State University, Minot ND:
Minot, ND, USA

get directions

Minot State University, Minot ND:
Minot State University, 500 University Ave W, Minot, ND 58707-0002, USA

get directions

Bismarck State College, Bismarck ND:
Bismarck State College, 1500 Edwards Ave, Bismarck, ND 58506, USA

get directions

Changes at Other Schools

Chancellor Bill Goetz of the North Dakota University System called a meeting of College and University Presidents from Bismarck State College, Dickinson State University, Minot State University, and Williston State College to delineate a clear picture of the changes that need to be made in schools in and near the Oil Patch.

Employers are picking up the cost of a lot of the TrainND certifications and short-term classes at Williston State College and others like it. Some are also furnishing meals and other perk while in the oil field. The long hours result in even high er pay.

Colleges and Universities in North Dakota

Nearest the Williston - Minot - New Town Oil Field

Nearest the Bismarck Metro Area and Jamestown

Nearest the Fargo-Grand Forks Area

Other North Dakota Colleges

*Involved in instituting and implementing changes necessary to accommodate workers in the Oil Patch.



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    • wheelinallover profile image

      Dennis Thorgesen 

      8 years ago from Beatrice, Nebraska U.S.

      Just like any other "business" if changes need to be made they should be. It takes innovative thinking in any field to stay ahead of the curve.

      As with most "businesses" the colleges have found a need and filled it. The housing problem will be solved as always with more housing than is necessary. It will like in every other "boom" take time.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      I wrote about PA and will keep my eye on updates and housing, so thanks for reminding us all about oil in PA!

    • Michael J Rapp profile image

      Michael J Rapp 

      8 years ago from United States

      We're looking at something similar in PA with the gas and oil drilling starting to take off. It remains to be seen what total impact it will have on the area over the next few decades.

      Interesting stuff and very well-written Hub!

    • viveresperando profile image


      8 years ago from A Place Where Nothing Is Real

      Interesting voted useful.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I like it, Patty. It's time to quit my day job.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      It is good to know that these schools are tailoring classes to the needs of the hundreds of new workers out in ND. Now, if they could only provide crews to build enough housing, they would have most of the problem solved there!

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      8 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Well congrats on 12 of 30! That's progress! And you write such beautiful hubs...I love how professional they are. I like how you added the college links in for instance - looks perfect and the links are convenient. Up ++++!


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