BY FREDDIE ALLEN
As industry insiders tout the growing opportunities for Blacks and other minorities in the oil and natural gas sector, breaking into the industry can still present challenges.
From access to capital and understanding the industry jargon to knowing how and when to pursue business opportunities, the learning curve can be steep.
The industry’s impact on the U.S. labor force is undeniable.
The natural gas industry supported more than 4 million jobs across the U.S. in 2015, from production to end uses such as manufacturing, according to the State of American Energy 2018 report. That number is expected to rise to 6 million jobs by 2040.
When it comes to hourly wages, Black workers also fare better in the oil and natural gas (ONG) industry.
Blacks in non-ONG industries make $20.18 in hourly wages compared to Blacks that work in the ONG industry that earn $24.87 in hourly wages. Whites in non-ONG industries make about $27.77 in hourly wages compared to $32.58 in hourly wages inside the industry.
Blacks with STEM degrees earn about $17 more in hourly wages in the oil and natural gas industry than they earn outside of the industry, according to a recent RAND report.
Whether you’re looking for a career or business opportunities, it pays to be prepared.
Learn the business
Tyra Metoyer, the external mobilization manager for the American Petroleum Institute (API), said that it’s essential for business owners looking to break into the oil and natural gas industry, to learn as much as they can about the industry, before they start going after contracts.
Being knowledgeable about the supply chain, payment cycles and staying up-to-date about industry-related innovation can really separate new business owners from their competition.
She said that companies also need to think about how they can supply ancillary services to the oil and natural gas industry like financial services, transportation, catering and custodial services.
Networking is important
Metoyer said that job seekers and small business owners have to network at conferences, at trade shows and online.
“Keep talking to people and asking questions,” said Metoyer. “You’ve got to find your champions in the industry.
Sometimes your champion isn’t necessarily the one that opens the door; your champion might be the one that explains something to you— that is the key to finding the right opportunity or connecting to the right person.”
Metoyer continued, “The relationships are critically important; so, network, network, network.”
Avoid the pitfalls
One of the worse things that can happen is for a business to land a big contract, then fail to deliver the goods. To avoid that mistake, Metoyer recommended that minority and women business owners partner with other companies to go after the more complex contracts.
Metoyer also warned against business owners focusing only on “Tier 1” direct-to-client business relationships, especially, when they can gain more experience and credibility as a subcontractor.
As the external mobilization manager for API, Metoyer said that she knows that the work she does every single day makes a difference as she connects women, African-Americans, Hispanics, young professionals and other diverse communities to opportunities in the oil and natural gas industry whether that’s for a job or a business.
API plans to work with its member companies to develop an industry specific supplier diversity education program that will include an “oil and gas 101” that will help participants understand the supply chain better and learn additional steps of identifying goods and services that might fit within industry.
Partnering with community groups like the local urban league affiliate or the local chambers of commerce, officials with API said that they also want to establish relationships with community stakeholders to provide training about the ins-and-outs of the oil and natural gas industry and to address some of the challenges that minority and women-owned businesses face.
“In addition to the work that we do every day, we spend millions of dollars on research, because we want to make energy cleaner and more efficient,” Metoyer said. “We’re also looking to be safer.”
Metoyer said that the ONG industry thrives on innovation.
“There are tremendous opportunities especially, when you can bring innovation to us. That’s the challenge,” said Metoyer. “If you can learn the business and bring innovation to the industry, you can find your place and really make a difference.”