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St. John helps students connect with petro jobs

By Monique Roth
L’Observateur

RESERVE — Junior and senior high school students enrolled in St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools will now be able to earn a basic petroleum industry certificate while still in high school thanks to a new partnership forged by the St. John the Baptist Parish Public School District.

The district announced a partnership with PetroEd, the leading global provider of eLearning for the oil and natural gas industry. Superintendent Kevin George said the collaboration makes online courses in the oil and natural gas industry available to district high school students beginning this month through the OPEN Petroleum Education Network, an educational sustainability initiative by the Houston-based provider.

OPEN was launched in 2010 to allow select universities and secondary schools access to premium-quality online educational material focused on technical oil and natural gas operations.

George the district will initially select 25 students for the certificate classes, and East St. John High School counselor Tai Cambre initiated the student search.

“Students were asked to sign up if they were interested in taking the online courses,” George said, adding final student selection was based on GPA, prior classes completed in BEF (business, engineering and finance) and FAITH (fine arts industrial technology and humanities) pathways and student interest.

The program includes four online courses — Basic Principles of Petroleum, Oil Well Drilling, Introduction to Well Control and RigPass — which students will complete at home.

Students successfully completing the latter two courses will be eligible to obtain a certificate from the International Association of Drilling Contractors, a certificate typically required for entry-level positions in the oilfield.

Courses provided by OPEN, which are considered an elective offering by the school district, allow students to earn a half credit per course. The cost per student is $250, and the district is actively seeking industry-based sponsors.

“As a school district that is literally surrounded by the oil and natural gas industry, this program is a fantastic opportunity for our students to learn more about jobs that are readily available to them,” George said. “These courses will allow our students to explore this career field and, if they choose to pursue it, certifications that will give them a jump-start on well-paying jobs before they even graduate from high school.”

OPEN is currently providing access to the curriculum for thousands of students at institutions worldwide.

“With the projection of 50 percent of the oil and natural gas workforce retiring in 2015, there will be a direct, indirect and induced impact to the U.S. economy resulting from a lack of knowledgeable, skilled and productive entry-level work force,” the OPEN website states. “OPEN offers one innovative solution addressing this unprecedented man-power deficiency (by providing) a standard baseline for the competencies of the new oilfield worker through a cost effective solution that mitigates risk for potential employers, in addition to helping petroleum educators with access to industry specific material.”

George said 2015 is the first year the district is working with OPEN. District officials first met with program personnel in September after speaking with Nicholls State University officials who were looking to bring the program to Louisiana. 

“We would like to thank Cameron Thompson with OPEN for presenting this great opportunity to our students,” George said.

“We would also like to thank two of our teachers, Nathanial Sowell and Jonathan Noel, who will teach these classes outside of normal school hours. And finally, I’d like to thank Shannon Smith from our district office who has worked out the details of the program over the past few months and has made it a reality.”