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Bakken oil is back, hungrier than ever
Post Date: Jun 16 2017

WATFORD CITY — From Watford City and Williston and places all around the oilfield, companies came to Watford City’s first big job fair in the Rough Rider Center. The companies were hungry to hire, and hire they did, many times right on the spot. But most of the companies went home with fewer prospects than they had available jobs.“I don’t know what everyone else is doing, but I have my three hiring managers here and we are doing interviews and making conditional offers on the spot,” said Doug Kirkwood, with Select Energy Services. 

The conditions included passing a drug screening and background check. Ten conditional offers had been made at the midpoint of the first fair, leaving another 20 positions still open.

Read the article in the Williston Herald.

The job fair attracted about 225 people, which Kirkwood said was better than he expected given it’s the first. Hiring in the Bakken, he said, is a continuous operation.

“With the turnover and the growth and the future, you just have to go ahead and hire and hope your plan is correct,” he said.

Select Energy has been in the Bakken about five years now, buying out International Western Company, which itself was formed about eight years ago. The company provides fresh water to hydraulic fracturing sites.

Among the company’s specialities is pumping the water, which takes about 100 trucks off the roads, Kirkwood said.

“We map the ponds for them, so they can monitor the levels while pumping,” Kirkwood said. “It’s semisonic wavelengths that go in to monitor in real time, and the data can get sent to someone in Houston that hey, this is how much water there is for you to use.”

The company weathered the downturn by hiring conservatively and holding positions open.

“We had very few layoffs, because our CEO just managed the business properly,” Kirkwood said.

The company prefers to hire locals. 

“There’s money to be made here, and it’s nice to put it back to the people who are here,” he said. “Our guys are not rotational. They live here.”

The company would like experience, but they will also train the right person. Honesty, integrity and a willingness to learn and work hard are the key characteristics he’s looking for.  

“We will start someone with no experience,” he said. “Jerry Durden isn’t here, but when he started he had absolutely no experience and now he’s a manager, because he took the time to learn the business.”

Likewise, Panther Pressure Testers, a few booths down, was hiring all levels for both the field and the shop.

“My workload is such with oil coming back that I am turning down jobs,” James Meyer told a prospective employee. “During the slowdown, we never did a layoff. We had our testers work on their own trucks while they had the time, but now they don’t. So I need more shop hands.”

Panther Pressure Testers specializes in blowout prevention pressure testing on drilling and workover rigs, and has been in the Williston Basin since 1991. During the downturn, the company added pipeline pressure testing to its repertoire, and trained a subset of employees whose jobs were at risk, so that it didn’t have to do any layoffs.

“We boast a fleet of 54 vehicles and 31 employees across two states,” Meyer said. “We just built a 25,000 square foot facility from the ground up here in Watford City.”

Key Energy Services, meanwhile, had talked to more than 100 candidates, several of whom are being considered for their Williston operation.

“Yes, we came to Watford to hire for the Williston area,” said Samuel Gonzalez, Key Energy’s Director of Recruiting.

His applicants hailed from as far away as Bakersfield, California and Arizona. He himself is based in Texas.

“We have some potential hires, which is good, and it’s also good to hear people’s stories,” he said. “People are hearing that the work is coming back to 2014 levels, and there are several candidates ready to go back to work.”

His positions included workover rig crews, floor hands, derrick hands and rig operators, for those with some oilfield experience already. 

He had hired about 20 on the spot at Watford City, but said he wasn’t done yet. He planned to be back in Williston Thursday morning from 8 a.m. to noon for another hiring event.

“If we were to train anyone,” Gonzalez added, “It would be a local hand. You work hard to find someone, and if they’ve never spent a winter up here in North Dakota — well a winter in Arizona just doesn’t compare.”

Perhaps the busiest booth of all, however, was one that adamantly was not hiring on the spot. ONEOK was at a table surrounded by workers talking to hiring managers.

“We are a little more pragmatic in our approach,” said Jamie Kalanick, recruiter. “This is not a job that you will get for three months and then get laid off. We keep people for a long time.”

ONEOK has 31 positions in the Bakken, Kalanick said, and unlike some of the other companies, they are not looking for locals to train. They are looking for the best qualified individuals they can get, wherever they may be.

“We still have the flexibility to offer people packages to move to the area if they aren’t living in the area already,” Kalanick said. 

She felt Watford City’s inaugural job fair had been “pretty good” for their purposes with a steady stream of people. She estimated they had 50 solid prospects by the end of the fair.

“People seem very well prepared, so that is good,” she said. “We have seen a lot of people with trucking experience and various other mixed oilfield jobs, so that has been good.”

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