An estimated 63 candidates attended a recent pipeline orientation to hear about new job opportunities and learn how they could become part of the Osage Nation job pool.
The event was held last Thursday at the Pawhuska Business Development Center.
Many of the attendees were seasoned pipeline hands or had undergone training as welders, CDL drivers, operators, and roustabouts. This article will highlight some of the speakers and what impact Osage Nation Principal Chief John D. Red Eagle’s vision has had on Osage County.
Throughout the day, participants were able to interface with representatives from US Pipeline, HS Field Services, the Teamsters, Osage Nation, Tri County Technology Center and The Strategy Center.
Workers in Demand
In discussing the variety of job opportunities awaiting them, Osage Nation Pipeline Consultant Rod Hartness said, "The Enbridge pipeline project has created multiple spinoffs for job opportunities. Worker demand is exceeding supply. This process is a plus for everyone. Cleveland Integrity is looking at holding an Inspector’s School. In all probability, the classes will be conducted after this current job is completed."
Hartness also expressed his hopes that more jobs will open up when the Missouri side of the Enbridge project is completed.
"They will start at Wynona going south. I’m thinking some workers may not want to come to Oklahoma. That will create opportunities for locals." Hartness said. He also talked about the construction of two new pump stations.
"One is scheduled to be built in Pershing and should employ around 20 hands, mainly laborers, operators and oilers," said Hartness. "The other will be built at the Highway 99 and 11 Junction near Wynona. The BIA is experiencing some permit problems, so construction of the Wynona station job has been delayed until January 1st. We are also in negotiations with major gas companies which mean more jobs. The opportunity is there. It’s up to the workers to follow through."
Local #798 Teamster Program Manager John Hudson said, "I’m an Osage boy and have lived in Fairfax all my life. This is the first time I’ve seen the Osage Tribe do anything. There have been a jillion pipelines come through. This guy (pointing to Hartness) started it and it’s been a very successful program for everybody. You are being given an opportunity to get the training necessary to land a $3,000 a week job."
Hudson said the training the Osage Nation has provided will enable them independence and financial security.
"Joining the union was the best thing that ever happened to me. Along with union wages, you get a pension plan. With us it takes five years. You will have a vested pension plan on top of social security. We have an insurance policy that is all inclusive, that pays for prescriptions, and covers preexisting conditions. There are a lot of advantages to joining a union but being in a union isn’t for everyone. Joining is entirely up to you."
Hudson explained how US Pipeline is also working on a station in Cushing that has the potential of creating 50-75 jobs. He also said he was seeking candidates to fill jobs in the Houston area.
"Through the Osage Nation job pool, we are sending people to Texas and Illinois. I called Jana the other day for thirty people. Within a day and a half, she had them for me."
Hudson added, "Skilled labor isn’t cheap and cheap labor isn’t skilled."
Hartness said unions are like the NFL.
"They are the best of the best," said Hartness. "Welder’s Division #798 is the top of the line. Because of their partnership with the Strategy Center and the Osage Nation, Danny Hendrix has agreed to set up additional schools at no charge. Welders have to have their own rigs. That’s why they command up to $100 a day per diem."
Hartness commended Mike Stark of Operator’s Union #627 and John Hudson.
"They are setting up schools for next year for even more training, such as learning how to operate heavy equipment. All are behind us 100 percent," said Hartness.
Plenty of Opportunity
Josh Thrower of HS Field Services explained that by using the Osage Nation pipeline job pool, he just hired three laborers and one CDL driver.
"We hire pipeline hands every day. There have been instances when I needed ten roustabouts."
"HS Field Services is based out of Dewey and deals with oilfield construction, compressor stations, tank batteries, dozers, excavators and more," said Thrower. "Most of our work is in Oklahoma. Our crews are dispatched every Monday morning. Workers are provided with job-site transportation and lodging. They may stay at the site until Friday or Saturday before coming home."
Thrower said his company equips its workers with hard hats, gloves and coveralls – everything but their steel-toe safety boots. After 90 days, HS Field Services offers medical insurance.
"There is plenty of opportunity for our hands to advance," he said. "We offer good wages although not competitive like the unions. However, you do not have to pay dues. While we are not union, workers get a decent wage and a lot of experience. Our drivers start at $16-17 an hour. Laborers can earn $10-12 an hour, depending on the skill set. We also provide medical insurance and are looking at eventually doing 401K (retirement plans)."
Thrower says that when a job becomes available, he gives first priority to candidate applications in the Osage Nation job pool which is administered by Jana Scimeca.
"We concentrate on taking care of small pipeline work, such as laying lines and working on right-of-ways," he said. "A lot of retired pipeliners enjoy going out on some of these jobs. Oklahoma is turning into a mini Dakota. HS Field Services is currently working on a project in western Oklahoma. All over Oklahoma there is some type of oilfield construction work. Holdenville and Ada are booming."
Because he says that safety is his company’s first priority, Thrower asked candidates be honest about their skill sets.
"Accidents happen when hands are not properly trained for the work they are assigned to do. Candidates can apply directly with my office or go through the Osage Nation’s job pool."
Throughout the orientation, accolades were lauded upon the wisdom and vision of Osage Principal Chief John D. Red Eagle who believed the pipeline would bring economic gain to Pawhuska and Osage County.
"As a lifelong Pawhuska resident and growing up in a pipeline family, I’ve spoken to numerous chiefs about the potential of pipeline jobs for the Osage people," said Hartness. "It was Chief John D. Red Eagle who seized this opportunity to provide employment for his people. All three unions said what is occurring in Osage County is the biggest explosion of jobs they have seen in years."
Osage Nation Education Director Ida Doyle expressed appreciation to the numerous individuals and companies who made their training program so successful.
"Enbridge Pipeline provided the pipe, Wyatt Construction of Ponca City donated skids, grinders were provided by Thompson Brothers, and Allen Bros. Feeds donated pallets. Osage County provided a truck and lowboy. The Teamsters provided a fork lift. Locals #798 and #627 opened their facilities to our students at no charge."
Osage Nation Compensation Analyst Jana Scimeca says a lot of people have given of their time, energy and finances to sponsor the program.
"Their efforts are literally changing people’s lives," said Scimeca. "If you already are working on pipeline, you know how important this is. We all have so much respect for Rod Hartness. He brought strong work ethics and integrity to the table. One of the chief’s goals was to initiate economic development within the Osage Nation and to educate and help Osages get to work. The way he went about doing this was asking Hartness to become his consultant on this pipeline project. Rod has proven to be the most important person on our team. He’s being able to open doors and make phone calls that the five of us could never have accomplished."
Osage Nation Human Resources Director Delary Walters encouraged cross-training.
"If you are willing to work in more than one area, let Jana know," said Walters. "This increases your opportunities for more jobs and gets your foot in the door. We have already sent a number out as laborers who ended up doing well."
As workers build their resumes, they are networking for future positions, according to Walters.
"There is nothing better than seeing people working, making good wages," said Hartness. "These wages go back into the community in the form of groceries, clothing, fuel, etc. My payroll report from last week, which does not include subcontractors or inspectors, or a lot of other jobs out there, was $1.5 million. This was just for US Pipeline. You can tack on another $700 to 800,000 from other vendors. That money trickles down into the economy. None of this would have happened without Chief Red Eagle."