Hemelt: Students add job opportunity with PetroEd

Published 11:45 pm Friday, January 9, 2015

To listen to Kevin George tell it, St. John the Baptist Parish students do not fully realize the opportunities that exist in the petroleum field.

The school district superintendent said that is why news this month of the district’s partnership with PetroEd, a leading provider of eLearning for the oil and natural gas industry, is so important.

“It is our job to expose them to career opportunities beyond high school,” George said. “Industry has a need, and we are able to fill that void with well-educated students who possess the requisite soft skills needed to be successful. (The students) are excited about the project, and we will continue to grow the program as its popularity increases.”

Juniors and seniors enrolled in St. John public schools can now earn a basic petroleum industry certificate while still in high school by taking online courses focused in the oil and natural gas industry.

The program includes four online courses for students to complete at home. Those successfully completing the latter two courses can obtain a certificate from the International Association of Drilling Contractors, which is typically required for entry-level positions in the oilfield.

“There is a huge oil and gas boom in our state, and we wanted to give our students an advantage of getting into this career field,” George said when explaining the program’s benefits this week. “Our job as educators is to expose students to many opportunities, and this venture accomplishes that objective.”

Kudos to St. John school leaders for working beyond the classroom to increase the education opportunities local students can take advantage of.

It is imperative school leaders across the River Parishes speak with regional industry representatives to determine certain skill sets our students need to be productive in those respective fields.

Doing so and following up with a signature program — like the PetroEd partnership — accomplishes that goal while adding another avenue for students to explore.

George said the school district aims to lead the community in developing its workforce.

However, the announcement of the program is not the success. That only comes if students buy in, do the work and are rewarded for their accomplishments. 

It is something George and other St. John School District officials are readily aware of. 

“With any new initiative, there will be concerns, but we feel like we are off to a great start,” George said. “We measure success by how many students complete the program with certification and by the partnerships formed with local industry.”

This latest effort is an example of St. John listening to industry (read: job opportunities) and adding curriculum and programs that prepare students for the available jobs.

“We want to partner with multiple businesses,” George said.

“We are the first school in Louisiana to offer this program to its students and we are proud of that accomplishment, but we will not be satisfied until we see students earning certification and going to work or furthering their education in the petro/chemical field.”

Courses provided through the partnership are considered an elective by the school district and cost $250 per student. The school district is seeking industry-based sponsors to help bridge that monetary gap.

There may be no better local effort to support for the national companies that dot our swath of the Mississippi River.

Some industry leaders are predicting large retirement numbers in the oil and natural gas workforce, creating entry-level workforce opportunities.

The time is right. The pool of talent here is rich.

With corporate backing, student participation and school district administration, it could lead to a renewable resource of local industry employment.

Stephen Hemelt is general manager and editor of L’OBSERVATEUR. He can be reached at 985-652-9545 or stephen.hemelt@lobservateur.com.