Just the Right Fit | Valley Pipefitters Bring Skills to Oil and Gas Industry – Business Journal Daily

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio—Richard Boyarko has enrolled 73 students at Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 396 this school year.

The union’s director of education says that no fewer than 20 of them, after five years of classroom and practical education, become journeymen every year. He gets 40% of his students from vocational schools in the area.

Boyarko says there are major contractors in the area that require trained pipe fitters to complete their projects, such as the Ultium Cells LLC plant in Lordstown and the Shell Pennsylvania Petrochemicals Complex in Monaca, Pennsylvania.

“The perfect pipe fitter is someone who is mechanically inclined,” Boyarko says. “You have to have a good work ethic. We prefer that.”

According to the Local 396 Construction Worker Apprenticeship Schedule, the freshman worker earns no less than $13.74 per hour, increasing to $30.60 after five years in the program. By including retirement, health care, and other benefits, the hourly pay rises to $51.67 after five years.

George Brown, executive director of the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program, says jobs in the oil and gas industry are not limited to pipe fitters. There are more than 75 fields in Ohio, with most jobs in welding, trucking, and engineering.

As of August 19, 1,140 job openings are available when you type the keywords “oil and gas” on OhioMeansJobs.com.

“[OhioMeansJobs has] have found that careers in oil and gas pay an average of $30,000 more than other fields and average about $81,000 a year,” Brown says. “So these are good, well-paying jobs, and the skills and levels vary. Places to get training is also a pretty full spectrum. ”

Brown says there’s plenty of oil and gas training from Youngstown State University to the Utica Shale Academy in Salineville to the trade schools in the area. In addition, he says his organization is partnering with Oh Wow! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology to educate younger children about these jobs and hopefully spark their interest in these professions – a venture set to take place this fall.

“So the Valley is uniquely positioned with all these incredible assets and community partners to address some of the workforce challenges out there and help people get these very high paying jobs,” says Brown.

Robert Olesky, Trumbull Career and Technical Center high school welding fabrication instructor, wants kids to be introduced to the trade at a younger age. He prepares students for jobs in the oil and gas industry.

Trumbull Career and Technical Center high school welding fabrication instructor Robert Olesky says TCTC had summer camp with 15 eighth-graders taking his class. The youngsters did not want to stop welding after the end of the week.

“I know that in three years, half of those kids will be enrolled in this class,” he says.

Introducing children to the profession at a younger age is something Olesky would like to see. He gives mini courses on carpentry, masonry, electrical engineering, heating and air conditioning and welding to combat the shortage of personnel in these fields.

Olesky teaches juniors and seniors, starting with primary education, as some have never used a hammer or screwdriver.

“Mom, Dad, give your kids a chance,” he says. “Let them work with their hands. Let them get dirty. Let them burn. Let them try it. The old saying is that if you find something you enjoy doing, you will never work a day in your life.

“Give them a chance. There is such a lack of skilled craftsmen.”

Mike Boyle, a high school welding instructor at Columbiana County Career and Technical Center, says pipe welding is generally not taught until senior year.

Boyle is a Certified Welding Instructor and Certified Welding Inspector. CCCTC provides references before these aspiring welders come to the Plumbing & Pipefitters Local 396.

His greatest advice to his students is to be diligent in their work and practice their skills.

Mike Boyle, a welding instructor at Columbiana County Career and Technical Center in high school, has a pipe cutter. He instructs in pipe welding and prepares those seeking employment in the oil and gas industry.

“Always make your next weld better than the one you just laid,” Boyle says. “That is very critical. You have to be your own worst critic. Find your flaws and try to correct them immediately. Just practice. Practice all that hand-eye coordination.

“You will have to get into different positions and any change quickly. Your welding technique must change with it. You have to be willing to adapt.”

Boyle worked with his father as a teenager, laying gas pipelines in mobile home parks. His father worked for Columbia Gas, laying pipelines around the Guilford Lake area in the 1950s, which, like any infrastructure, are beginning to wear out.

“Today you start to see a lot of pipelines that they’re doing repair work on,” he says. “I think more than ever with infrastructure you’re going to see a lot of need for repairing pipelines.”

In addition to physical dexterity, welding requires knowledge of mathematics.

“Although it makes the kids a little psyched, they have to learn trigonometry,” Olesky says. “If you teach them to read and build blueprints, they’ll do trig without knowing they’re doing it. So that’s a nice way to get around it.”

Boyle talks about a welder from Salem who had work in Indiana, Pennsylvania and Ohio, and lived quite comfortably with many tools of the trade. He sold his house and bought a camper a year ago. He travels across the country with his wife and child to search for pipelines across the country for at least six figures.

Others work 70, 80, and even more hours a week for what could be a six-month cycle, making over $100,000 in half a year.

“They get used to that lifestyle,” Boyle says. “It’s a different lifestyle. But I like the guys who travel with their installations and chase the pipelines across the country. Those guys, they’ve committed themselves to travel.”

Pictured above: Rick Boyarko shows a training installation in the union hall of Plumbers and Pipefitters.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.

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