North American Oil & Gas Pipelines

OCT 2018

North American Oil & Gas Pipelines covers the news shaping the business of oil and gas pipeline construction and maintenance in North America, including pipeline installation methods, integrity management innovations and managerial strategies.

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find now," Forbes' Joshua Wright ob- served, "just wait a few years. The skills gap is likely to become more acute." It did. And now, 2018 brings a fully- fledged skilled trade shortage hamper- ing regional-scale pipeline projects. "Throughout North America, the pipeline industry is struggling to maintain a stable supply of skilled trades professionals," says David LaBorde, Teamsters National Pipeline Director. "These include both special- ized professions, and the versatile and critical role of our contractors, without whom neither training nor work op- portunities are possible." Shortages of welders, heavy equip- ment operators, truck drivers, con- tractors and laborers are especially concerning for the pipeline industry. Each are critical professions for mul- tiple markets beyond pipelines, from home-building and general contract- ing to more specialized, project-specif- ic markets. THE PROBLEM: Sustaining the Labor Pool The shortage poses a two-sided problem: workforce development and recruitment. Starting backwards, pipeline companies need to recruit skilled workers and deploy them to projects. But before pipelines can recruit workers, those professionals need training with specific skill sets and must build experience readying them for deployment. With fewer and fewer high schools providing critical trade skills develop- ment, only two sectors can provide this vital service: unions and for-profit trade schools. Private trade schools typically put students in the difficult position of taking on debt, posing a major drawback. That's where unions can play an invaluable role. Unions give free, high-quality train- ing, apprenticeship opportunities and job placement as a part of member- ship — a turnkey workforce develop- ment solution. Unions also provide a recruitment solution, dispatching workers from a ready book of active, trained, deployable workers. Unions also provide life-long career pathways, not just a job. But unions face the same workforce challenges as all the other skilled trade recruiters. "We're really feeling this shortage just like everyone else," says Marion Davis, construction director for the In- ternational Brotherhood of Teamsters. "We've become like pro football talent scouts, looking everywhere we can for the next generation of talent. As the pipeline industry expands so do our labor needs. So we're staying one step ahead of the game, finding new folks to fill those positions." While traditional high schools lag in guiding young people toward trade careers, there is another group that could fill the void. Native American tribes have tremendous potential to fill this need while addressing impor- tant labor challenges of their own. "Native American tribes are among the best partners for workforce de- velopment," LaBorde says. "There's a tremendous well of untapped talent, skill and work ethic in Indian Coun- try. We're always looking for ways to connect with tribes, reach out to their young people and see if our career pathways are a good fit for them." THE SOLUTION: Tribal-Union Workforce Partnerships While unions cultivate tribal part- nerships to meet key labor needs, they may also help address larger challeng- es throughout Indian Country. "We think these Tribal-Union part- nerships are a workforce development tool for the future," says Bobby Gon- zalez, president of Tribal Energy Re- source. "These partnerships put young people to work in Indian Country and help unions stabilize the pipeline in- dustry's labor strain. Our approach also promotes economic growth on reservations all over the country." Reservation unemployment is a critical need. Historian and law professor Robert Miller is a citizen of the Eastern Shaw- nee Tribe of Oklahoma. His book, Res- ervation Capitalism: Economic Devel- opment in Indian Country, explores this problem. Since 2000, he explains, reservation unemployment averages trended from 20 to 80 percent on spe- cific reservations, with national aver- ages hovering near 50 percent. But it's not all bad news. In an era of rising skilled trade demand, union membership aimed at pipeline con- struction is one great solution. Unions are a much more attractive option for tribal governments focused on workforce development because unions offer permanent career-paths, debt-free training and high wages. OCTOBER 2 018 | North American Oil & Gas Pipelines 27

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