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Creating Opportunities

The energy industry offers opportunities as well as careers

By Valerie Menard

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One of the core principles of the American Petroleum Institute (API) is the commitment to hire, train and develop a highly skilled and diverse workforce for the fast-growing energy industry. API member companies identified the need for a training program that provides baseline knowledge and a skills-based education for good paying jobs. Generally, operations and maintenance roles do not require degrees, and they are an excellent career pathway into the industry. The SkillsReady by API program was created to increase industry awareness for these career paths, especially amongst diverse communities.

“SkillsReady by API was developed in partnership with the San Jacinto Community College in Pasadena, Texas, which actually has a replica of an actual plant on campus, to help recruit and train potential employees for job opportunities,” said Necole Lelarue, Senior Program Assistant, Training and Development, API.

Launched in August 2022, the program had an inaugural class of 18 (including 12 Latinos) mostly recent graduates from Houston area high schools selected by San Jacinto Community College. There is no age limit to qualify for the program, and all that’s required is a high school diploma or GED. The program’s curriculum prepares participants for entry-level operational jobs in the energy sector. Courses cover safety procedures and concepts for critical equipment utilized at facilities and general operational processes that are applicable to all industry segments. 

“Safety is the most important component of our training because employees who have never worked in this setting need to be prepared to do certain things to protect themselves, like wear a hardhat, steel-toe shoes, long-sleeve shirts, etc.,” asserted Lelarue.


SkillsReady by API is free and lasts four months. It includes virtual assignments Monday through Thursday and classes on Fridays. The students can work at their own pace but must pass a final exam in order to receive an API Certificate that is recognized throughout the oil and gas industry. A critical feature is the mentorship and active engagement that students received from API member companies. Leveraging the “if you can see it, you can be it” model, students learned from current operations technicians in the industry, which helped them envision what their own career could look like. Students also took a field trip to a refinery in Baytown, Texas where students could see what they’ve learned in action. 

“With the retirement rate, the oil and gas industry has not been able to keep up with the growing need for entry- and mid-level workers,” says Jay Culver, incumbent training director at San Jacinto Community College. “We put together the curriculum for the classes and with a 100 percent completion rate, we consider the first group a great success and look forward to working with API on the next group.” 


The call for applications for the next cohort is now open and the deadline to apply is June 16. 


Another goal for API when designing SkillsReady by API was to increase the industry-wide focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) through continuous learning, innovation and leveraging scale to drive greater impact. 

“Diversity makes our industry stronger and more resilient. Programs like SkillsReady by API, which teaches industry knowledge to diverse communities is an important focus for API and we look forward to scaling and expanding to other cities across the country who are in need of a program like this one,” said Allison Kajs, Senior Manager, API.


API has partnered with Opportunity@Work to prepare graduates of the program for a bright future in the energy industry. They receive coaching and help with resume building, interview skills and job searches. 


“This program was created by API in partnership with dedicated members of the natural gas and oil industry to foster new and innovative workforce training opportunities in the communities where our industry operates. There was no better place to begin this new initiative than right here in the energy capital of the world---Houston, Texas---with our San Jacinto partners at their world-class laboratories,” Scott Garten, API Vice President for Global Industry Services Product Management, said at the graduation ceremony. “We are proud of our graduates’ accomplishments and look forward to them beginning fulfilling careers.”

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