The natural gas industry is booming. With increasing volumes from production to transmission to distribution, it takes a massive workforce to maintain the millions of miles of gas lines and trillions of dollars of equipment and infrastructure. And with an aging workforce, there is a true need across the United States for trained, hardworking natural gas workers. Job tasks include new construction, replacement of outdated assets, emergency response, cathodic protection, and compliance roles like leak survey and repair.
Most people think of natural gas as a common way that Americans stay warm in the winter, cook their food, and dry their clothes. But the industry reaches much further. Natural gas is the primary source of electricity generation in the U.S. It fuels transportation and provides the chemical feed stock for manufacturing thousands of everyday products, such as plastics, cell phones, eyeglasses, lipstick, military parachutes, and fertilizers. The industry also has several subsectors, such as renewable natural gas, liquefied natural gas, and compressed natural gas.
If you enjoy working with your hands outdoors in a team environment—and making a difference! —the gas industry can be a great fit that will take care of you and your family. With the rising need for gas workers, you can follow many paths to employment, such as starting as an apprentice, enrolling in community college courses, or attending a trade school.
What to Look for in a Natural Gas Program
The purpose of pre-employment training is to give you an advantage in the job market and provide a fast start in a long, rewarding career. Look at the testimonials of the instructors, staff, and previous students. Check the employment rates of graduates. Identify the knowledge, skills, and behavior taught during the program. How well do they match the jobs you’re planning to do? Compare the time invested to the value you gain from the program. Most trade schools have a great relationship with possible employers once you graduate from the program. Start by doing your homework and looking up the different options. Take a tour, ask questions, and look for people passionate about the decision you need to make.
The Trade School Option
Most trade schools have instructors that have real-life experience in the industry and are also trained educators. Many have existing relationships with employers looking for a source of reliable workers. Trade schools have classroom time, field time, and possibly lab time depending on the school and the curriculum. The training will always emphasize the importance of a safety culture and explain why work is performed the way it is. For example, the seven-week Natural Gas Technician Program at Northwest Lineman College educates students on:
- Line location
- Underground Piercing Tool
- Fusion techniques for gas lines
- Running distribution of mains and services
- Meter set plumbing
- Customer appliance relights
- Customer service interactions
Cost is a huge part of picking any training option, including trade schools. And the cost will vary. Think of the short-term costs in terms of the long-term value your education will bring to your career. The cost is usually a short-term investment for a long-term reward. When you compare costs, be sure to factor in how valuable the training is to getting a solid start in your career.
What to Expect After Graduation
Most programs don’t guarantee employment, but quality training will open up opportunities for you because you are more attractive to employers. You must be adaptable if you want the best chance at employment—time and place are key to finding the best fit. This may involve relocating for a time. Just because you start in a certain position or state does not mean that is where you stay. Be patient, work hard, and keep progressing, and the rest will fall into place.
Once you are employed in the gas industry, the training never stops. You will learn every day through on-the-job training along with operator qualifications that qualify you to perform more advanced tasks in the field. These will change depending on the organization with which you work and the types of services they provide. Continuing education and training are a must in the gas industry, and workers must be able to adapt to that change.
The natural gas trade is a rewarding industry. Organizations have great wages, benefits, safety cultures, and want to see their employees succeed. If you work hard, actively listen and learn, empower others, and keep learning and developing, the possibilities are endless!
Courtesy of Billy Kidd, Gas Training Supervisor, Northwest Lineman College