Writing about the effects of increased production of oil and natural gas from shale, I often cite big numbers, like the 1.7 million jobs and $63 billion in government revenues that development of unconventional energy resources has already produced nationwide. Or the 10,000 construction jobs and 4,000 other permanent new jobs that would be created by the planned expansion of ExxonMobil’s chemical facilities in Baytown, TX, near Houston – an opportunity made possible by the new abundance of domestic natural gas.
While those numbers are impressive, they can seem a bit abstract and impersonal. So I am glad to be able to highlight a story that breaks it all down in a way that puts a human face on how energy production is transforming the U.S. economy.
On Friday, ExxonMobil announced a $500,000 grant to underwrite a technology job-training program in the greater Houston area that will help develop the workers to staff a rapidly expanding petrochemical industry. This comes just a few months after prospects for a “major workforce shortage” were discussed at the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers annual meeting.
ExxonMobil Chemical Company president Steve Pryor, quoted in a front-page Houston Chronicle story, noted: “There are literally thousands of new jobs coming to the Houston area and across the Gulf Coast being created because of what I think of as a tidal wave of new investment created for the chemical industry. … It’s lots of jobs and at the heart of them, to enable all of these (projects) to happen, you need skilled workers.”
More than 400 chemical plants and refineries on the Gulf Coast comprise the world’s largest concentration of petrochemical manufacturing. Recent capacity additions announced by ExxonMobil and other companies make clear the need for more skilled workers in coming years. That’s why Friday’s announcement makes sense. And it’s particularly welcome news given the specter of unemployment continuing to haunt many parts of the U.S. economy.
The program announced Friday will build on one ExxonMobil already has in place with Baytown’s Lee College. It will draw in other local academic institutions to train students seeking certification or completion of degree programs for instrumentation, electrical, machinist/millwright, welding, pipefitting and other skills and competencies needed by the chemical industry.
These are high-paying jobs; the average salary in the chemical industry is $86,000 per year, which is 40 percent higher than the national average for manufacturing.
We anticipate more than 50,000 students and educators will benefit over the next five years from this new program and from the continuation of our other job-training programs.
More details are available at a new website – www.HoustonNaturalGas.com.
Finally, don’t miss this segment above from Houston’s local FOX affiliate for the opportunity to meet one of those students. Kenneth Kossie is a military veteran whose experience with one of our programs has set him up for a potential career with ExxonMobil. We’re investing in people like Kenneth, and in doing so we are investing in America’s future.