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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28 North American Oil & Gas Pipelines | OCTOBER 2 018 CASE STUDY: Cherokee Nation- Local 798 Workforce Partnership The Cherokee Nation is a prime can- didate for a workforce development partnership. The largest American In- dian tribe, the Cherokee Nation owns 35 companies producing more than $1 billion in annual revenue and $114 million in profits. It's no surprise that when Pipeliners Union Local 798 wanted a workforce development project with a major tribe, business manager Danny Hen- drix struck-up a conversation with the Cherokee Nation. "The Cherokee are a pre-eminent economic development force in Okla- homa and throughout Indian Coun- try," Hendrix says. "We knew a part- nership with Cherokee Nation would open up tremendous opportunity. They have extensive experience in the region and in businesses supporting our pipeline industry partners." A sovereign government represent- ing over 360,000 citizens, Cherokee Nation Businesses (CNB) are champi- ons of workforce development. They employ 11,000 in all but one state. Within its home state of Oklahoma, CNB supports nearly 18,000 jobs, put- ting more than $2 billion into the State's economy. CNB reinvests 63 per- cent of its net income back into Cher- okee business for workforce develop- ment — from training to job growth. Major sectors of CNB operate in three markets directly tied to the pipeline industry: logistics and dis- tribution; federal contracting, and manufacturing and engineering. For all these reasons, Cherokee Na- tion is a first-rate case-study candi- date for a Union-Tribal workforce development partnership. A Historic MOU After positive discussions, Cherokee Nation's Career Services department teamed-up with the Pipeliners Local Union 798 to train Cherokee citizens as welders, journeymen and welder helpers. This culminated in an April 21 signing ceremony for a memoran- dum of understanding (MOU). "This MOU is historic. It means tribes, especially Cherokee Nation, will be at the table early in the de- velopment process so we can voice opinions about cultural and natural resources before pipeline routes are de- termined and finalized here in Okla- homa," Gonzalez says. "The union and tribal government will have each other's interest in mind." Under the agreement, the Cherokee Nation will refer promising Cherokee workers to the Local 798 for training and job placement across the United States. The union in turn provides Chero- kee Nation citizens free, specialized training for natural gas and oil pipe- line construction careers. Adding to the value of this training, Local 798 specializes in downhill welding, which accounts for the vast majority of work involved with their contracts. The MOU compliments a broad training platform provided by Cher- okee Nation Career Services. These include numerous vocational, educa- tional, and employment programs as well as curriculum for youth, skills assessments and certifications, and many other resources for both indi- viduals and businesses. "Our career services department now offers training in carpentry, welding, masonry, electrical work, heavy construction, and other trades. It allows us to develop and encourage work habits and skills that promote employability and self-sufficiency," says Diane Kelley, Cherokee Nation Career Services executive director. "Our partnership with Local Union 798 will give Cherokee Nation citizens yet another avenue for training and good-paying jobs." Jobs vs. Lifelong Careers Many of today's workforce develop- ment initiatives highlight the num- ber of jobs connected to a proposed construction project. The Cherokee Nation-Local 798 partnership is do- ing much more: providing high wage, long-term career pathways with all the benefits of union membership in a high-demand profession. "The Cherokee Nation is working hard to connect our citizens to stable, high-paying jobs that provide great benefits and lifelong careers. Our partnership with the Local Union 798 gives tribal citizens yet another path- way to employment for jobs that are in high demand," said Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr., af- ter a recent tour of Local 798's Tulsa training facility. "While the physical and mental demands associated with this field of work aren't for everyone, we have citizens in the Cherokee Na- tion who are going to thrive in this environment and several have already expressed an interest." Local Union 798 has about 6,500 members, many of whom are mem- bers of federally recognized tribes. It connects qualified Cherokee Nation helpers and welders to projects in over 40 states across the country. Entry level helpers have the po- tential to earn more than $100,000 per year, while some experienced welders belonging to Local 798 earn well above that, not including their benefits. Helpers connected to jobs through Local 798 complete 5,000 hours of field work before applying for the union's welder training, get- ting paid for their time along the way. Because of high demand, the union offers these 14-week training courses three times per year. "This isn't just a job, it's a lifestyle and a career path that can change someone's life," Hendrix says. "This agreement gives career opportuni- ties to Cherokee Nation citizens that include nice wages, per diems, pen- sions, health care, 401(k) and struc- ture. We want to help build careers. That's really what it's all about, and it just makes sense for us to work with tribal nations." Lou Thompson is CEO of Tribal Energy Resource, a consulting rm that specializes in Native American relations in the energy sector.

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