Update On Employment And Living In Dickinson, North Dakota

I want to give everyone in the United States current and correct information on what employment and living in Dickinson, North Dakota is like, so that people do not experience hardship or make a mistake in coming here.

In April, some news services, energy industry representatives, and North Dakota Job Service representatives made announcements stating that there is a great need for workers in North Dakota.  From what I see, this is not true, and I want to explain how things really are.

For unskilled, low skilled, and non able-bodied workers, there are a few job openings that come up in fast food, convenience store, and retail stores.  These jobs are not very high paying jobs.

You might be asking or saying, why can’t I work in the oil field, or I plan on working in the oil field.  I will explain about the oil field in a minute.

For unskilled or low skilled workers that are able-bodied, there are a few job openings for construction laborers beginning in the Spring, and these jobs usually last through the Fall.  Once it becomes Winter in North Dakota, many construction companies shut down and lay off workers.  The way that the unemployment compensation eligibility formulas are designed in North Dakota, if you do not work in the Winter months, and have high income in the Summer months, you very likely will be determined to not be eligible to receive unemployment compensation during a Winter lay off.

Working In The Oil Field

I am going to try to explain some misconceptions about working in the oil field, which everyone in the United States should know about.  This is going to be pretty thorough and detailed, because I want to explain once and for all, not just how things really are in the oil field, but why things are this way, so that people quit falling for lies and bullshit that are not true.

Working For An Oil Company.  In North Dakota, some of the oil companies that do business here are Continental, Marathon, Whiting, Hess, and Tesoro.  One of the most common jobs for these oil companies is called “pumper”.  A pumper will be assigned a company pick up truck, and about twenty oil field locations, more or less.

The pumper’s job each day, is to drive to each oil field location, observe the condition of the site, look for any leaks in pumps, piping, or tanks, inspect the pump, inspect the tanks, and record information such as pressures, flow rates, and tank levels.

What the oil companies are looking for in a pumper, is someone who is completely reliable, and completely trustworthy.  They must very rarely ever call in sick, and almost never be late.  They must have an almost completely perfect driving record, with no accidents and no DUIs.  They must have an employment history that shows steady, long term employment with other companies, as evidence of reliability and trustworthiness.

Other qualifications that a pumper must have, is a demonstrateable knowledge of mechanics, controls, instrumentation, and equipment.  Acceptable proof of aptitude would be employment history working as a heavy equipment mechanic, working in automation or controls, or previous work history in the oil field installing and maintaining pump jacks, working on a drill rig, a work over rig, or fracturing.

Most of the oil company pumpers are in their 30s, 40s, and 50s, and worked for more than five years in the oil field before they ever became a pumper.

Working for Oil Refineries, Oil Pipelines, and Gas Pipelines.  In North Dakota, some of the companies that own and operate oil refineries and pipelines are Tesoro, Plains All American, and Dakota Access Pipeline.  Just like the oil companies, the refinery and pipeline owners and operators are looking for people that are absolutely reliable and absolutely trustworthy.

What I did not explain about the oil companies, which also applies to the refineries and pipeline owners, is that they just will not and can not hire personnel who are unqualified or questionable in any way.  There are too many people’s lives at stake, too much money at risk, too much environmental damage possible, and too much liability to hire or allow anyone to work who is questionable in any way.

They must exclude from employment, people with DUIs, people with criminal charges, people with drug charges, people with domestic abuse charges, people with mental illness, people with poor work histories, or people with vehicle accidents.  Though they will not come out and say it, they try to screen out people who have extreme views whether social, religious, or political, people with bad tempers, people with depression or bi-polar, people who are too young or too old.

I wanted to describe in detail who the oil companies, refineries, and pipeline owners hire, so that people would not mistakenly believe that they could just move to North Dakota and get a job with an oil company, without understanding how selective and strict these companies are in hiring.

Working for Drilling, Work Over, and Casing Companies.  In North Dakota, some of the companies that operate oil drilling rigs, workover rigs, and perform casing installation are Nabors, Patterson, H&P, Key, Big Sky, and Wyoming Casing.  Unlike the oil companies, refineries, and pipeline owner companies, who are concerned primarily with employees being completely reliable and completely trustworthy, the drilling, work over, and casing companies are primarily concerned with hiring people that can physically handle the work.

The drilling, work over, and casing companies perform the most dangerous and most physically demanding work.  There are very few people who are physically capable of doing these jobs, and very few people who would be willing to do these jobs because they are so difficult and dangerous.

On an oil drilling rig, the floor hands on the drilling platform typically have to work a twelve hour shift each day, for fourteen days in a row, then they receive seven days off.  During each twelve hour shift on the drill rig platform, the floor hands may be required to continuously stand at the drill pipe and make connections, they may be required to continually climb up and down fifty stair steps carrying heavy tools and equipment that weigh 100 lbs or more, they may be required to climb the twelve story tall drill derek.  The weather could be 90 degrees Fahrenheit, or it could be -40 degrees Fahrenheit with wind chill.

On a drill rig, there is no faking work, pretending to work, slacking off, getting out of work, or getting someone else to do your work for you.  It is nothing but work, all the time, the drilling has to proceed non-stop.  If you have any kind of physical defect or weakness such as a bad foot, bad ankle, bad knee, bad hip, bad back, bad shoulder, or are weak, out of shape, or get tired, you will be worked to failure to where you can not physically continue and that is the end of your job.

The drilling, work over, and casing companies do not want to waste time hiring anyone that they can already tell are not going to be physically able to do the work.  They do not want to waste time and money in hiring and training the wrong people, who will not be able to last one day or one week on the job.  What these companies are looking for, and who they screen out, they are not going to come out and say it because they don’t want any legal trouble, but I will explain it.

These companies are looking for men who are between the ages of twenty to thirty years old, who have a background in farming, construction, or military field duty, who are accustomed to harsh outdoor conditions, dangerous work conditions, and hard physical work.  Any person who appears to be physically week, lethargic, lacking energy, lacking stamina, severely overweight, underweight, too physically small, too old, or appears to be a female, these companies don’t even want to waste their time considering these people for employment, because they have found again, and again, and again that any person who has physical weakness is just not going to be able to do the work.

The work over rig companies sometimes have employees work 14 to 16 hours per day.  The casing companies sometimes have employees work up to 30 hours continuously, or until the job is completed.

Working for Directional Drilling, Hydraulic Fracturing, and Wireline Companies.  Some of the directional drilling, hydraulic fracturing, and wireline companies that operate in North Dakota are Halliburton, BJ Services, and Keane.  These companies seek to hire people who are reliable and trustworthy like the oil companies do, but are just slightly less strict, and they seek to hire people who are physically capable of doing hard work like the drilling companies, but they are slightly less demanding.

Directional drilling, hydraulic fracturing, and wireline companies are looking for employees who have almost perfect driving records, with no accidents, and no DUIs.  They want employees who have a commercial driver’s license.  These companies may be unwilling or unable to hire people with criminal records, especially with theft or assault charges.

They are looking for employees with a work history showing reliability, and having performed work in farming, construction, heavy equipment, military trades classification, or military field duty.  They want people who are accustomed to working in harsh outdoor conditions, dangerous work conditions, working around heavy equipment, performing hard labor, and working long hours.

These companies will not come out and tell you who they screen out, because they do not want any legal problems, but these companies do not want to waste time and money hiring and training people who are not going to be able to physically do the work, who will only last one day or one week on the job.  Typically, who they might screen out would be people who appear to be physically weak, lethargic, lacking energy, lack stamina, severely overweight, under weight, too old, erratic, unbalanced, or have bad judgement.  They will hire women who meet their hiring requirements.

Working for Oil Field Service Companies.  Some of the oil field service companies who operate in North Dakota are GE Lufkin, Weatherford, Stallion, Titan, Steier, SM Fencing, Bob’s.  These companies have more flexibility in hiring.  They are still looking for people with very clean driving records, no accidents, no DUIs, and a commercial driver’s license, but they are sometime willing to overlook a fault in one area, by an applicant having a recognized specialty in another area, such as being a certified mechanic, certified welder, certified welding inspector, certified crane operator, or journeyman electrician.

Oil field service companies are sometimes willing to hire one inexperienced younger worker at a time, if this worker appears to have good judgement, good common sense, a positive attitude, willingness to listen and follow instructions, if this worker can be placed with an older experienced worker.

Oil field service companies are sometime willing to hire older experienced oil field workers who have made a mistake, had an accident, had an injury, suffered an illness, or have a physical disability which can be accommodated.

Even though oil field service companies have more flexibility in hiring, they are still looking for people who have a background in farming, construction, or military field duty.  People who are accustomed to working in harsh outdoor conditions, dangerous conditions, performing physical labor, working around equipment, operating equipment, and working long hours.

Oil field service companies are the easiest entry point into gaining work experience in the oil industry, but even so, news organizations and the oil industry have misled people across the United States into believing that entry into a high paying oil field job is as easy as working at McDonalds one day, then working for an oil company the next day.

If this were true, all of the experienced oil field service company workers who are paid at the mid-level, would go get a “high paying” oil company job tomorrow.  Why would experienced oil field service company workers continue to work at mid-level pay for years and years, if it was so easy for anyone to get a high paying job for an oil company?

Working for Construction Companies in Dickinson.  Some of the construction companies in Dickinson are Winn Construction, Baranko Brothers, Northern Improvement, and Tooz Construction.  These construction companies would like to hire people with clean driving records and commercial driver’s licenses, but they will hire experienced construction workers who do not have a driver’s license.  The experience that they are looking for is experience in operating heavy equipment such as loaders, dozer, excavator, skid steer, boom truck, lull, or experience in concrete form work, concrete finishing, steel building erection, and paving.

If you do not have prior work experience in construction, doing some of the work that I have described above, do not be mis-led by news services or North Dakota Job Service into believing that you can come to Dickinson and easily get a job in construction.  The construction companies can sometimes hire people with not very much job experience to work as laborers, but it is impractical and undesirable for construction companies to hire more than just a few inexperienced workers at one time.

Summary for Working in Dickinson, North Dakota.  I want for everyone in the United States to know and understand that oil companies are very strict and demanding with their background and experience requirements in hiring, drilling companies are very strict and demanding with their physical strength and endurance requirements in hiring, and oil field service companies try to hire people with relevant work experience.

There are some job openings with construction companies for low skilled laborers, but these jobs usually only last from April through October, seven months, and that you will likely not be eligible to receive unemployment compensation during a Winter lay-off.

There are some job openings in fast food, convenience stores, and retail stores, but these jobs are not high paying.

When news services, energy industry representatives, and North Dakota Job Service representatives make announcement that many workers are needed in North Dakota, I am skeptical and I don’t believe this.  Many people that I know who are intelligent and skilled, have had to leave North Dakota in the past several years because they have not been able to find employment.  Also, I know people who are currently living in Dickinson, who are unable to find employment.

I believe that business people in North Dakota are trying to lure people to North Dakota using false information, so that they can grow the economy, fill in vacancies in housing, and drop the wage rate that employers have to pay by creating a surplus of workers.

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