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Oil and gas industry job fair to be Thursday

NATCHEZ — Southwest Mississippi’s expanding oil and gas industry is hunting for employees.

The first of many job fairs to satisfy that need takes place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday at the Natchez Convention Center.

Sponsored by Drill Mississippi, a partnership of Natchez Inc. and Visit Natchez, Thursday’s job fair will include at least six area industries looking for rail operators, pipeline mechanics, welders, crane operators, drillers, motor men, flood hands and more.

Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ said one to three similar job fairs would likely be needed per year to help local industries find labor.

“Right now, it is very robust, and there is a lot of openings within that field in a lot of different areas, ranging from very technical jobs to welders, pipe fitters and I&E technicians,” Russ said. “(The jobs) are all over the board. You’ll have chemical engineers hired at some point. They are all hunting employees.”

Some of the companies participating this week include Enersteel, Genesis Energy, D&D Drilling and Energy Drilling.

Natchez Inc. Communications Manager Aimee Guido said Thursday’s job fair is targeted at anybody looking to work in the field or those looking to brush up on safety certifications to help them with employment. Copiah-Lincoln Community College and Southwest Mississippi Community College will be on site to answer questions about what is offered at their locations.

“It is free to the public,” Guido said. “A lot of our new industries are expanding at a very rapid rate, which is a very good thing for our area. They need employees, and we are trying to meet their needs.”

Those interested should stop by the convention center between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Thursday with their résumé and a list of any safety certifications.

“Be ready to meet with some really good companies that are wanting to hire people in this area,” Guido said.

Ruth Nichols, Alcorn State University’s assistant vice president for educational and community partnerships, said she met with a few oil and gas industry leaders last week and they told her that strong hires are crucial to the industry’s success.

“They need skill, but they know they will not always find oil-industry specific skills here in the local labor market,” she said. “However, what they need most of all are employees that have a strong work ethic, can pass the drug test, have an integrity with their attendance and a good attitude toward their work.

“These companies realize clearly their profit margin and their livelihood depend pretty much completely on the quality of the people that work for them.”

Alcorn is surveying approximately 45 local oil and gas leaders to find out what is needed in employee communication skills, basic skills and what roles applicants with GEDs or high school diplomas can play along with those who have gone through higher education.

“Hopefully, we, as higher education institutions, will step up to the plate and provide the training and education that these companies need in an employee,” Nichols said.