McCormick: State should pitch energy jobs to veterans
HUNTINGTON — A vast opportunity exists for the oil and natural gas industry to attract, retain and develop lifelong careers for veterans transitioning out of active duty, according to retired U.S. Army Capt. James McCormick.
“We have thousands of service members that leave the military every year,” McCormick said during a luncheon Tuesday at the St. Mary’s Conference Center in Huntington. “It’s no secret that West Virginia has lost a great number of its population. We can replace a lot of that loss by showing veterans these jobs are available here in West Virginia.”
McCormick was the featured speaker at the “Energy Speaks” event hosted by the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce.
He said there is a role that energy plays with national security.
“West Virginia is poised to be a big-time player because of our access to oil, natural gas, coal, solar, wind and other renewable energy sources,” he said. “Through the nation’s economic peaks and valleys, one constant is our need for energy. The goal for America is to become energy independent and not have any reliance on other countries. It is vital to our national security.”
McCormick, who represents Vets 4 Energy and Advocates Inc. in Washington, D.C., said West Virginia must do a better job of communicating the available jobs in the energy industries.
“We need a grasstops advocacy effort within the state that is going to look out and say this is what we have, ask how do we build the branding around these industries, and how do we get people attracted to these energy jobs,” he said.
McCormick said energy industries have career opportunities covering a very diverse spectrum.
“From transportation to construction, from the trades to engineers, there are many job options in energy,” he said. “Having previous energy industry experience isn’t necessarily required to land a job with an energy company. These companies are looking for strong discipline skills, which veterans have.”
McCormick said over the past several years the number of veterans working in the oil, natural gas and petrochemical industries has been growing, with nearly 185,000 veterans employed in 2014.
“West Virginia has a real opportunity here to bring some folks back home to fill these jobs and even increase its population by bringing other veterans to the state looking for career opportunities in these energy industries,” he said.
McCormick says he understands that there are always some environmental and landowner concerns when it comes to the energy industries.
“There is a lot of false information out there,” he said. “These industries are highly regulated. Environmental and worker safety is a top priority for these companies and the states they operate in. Landowners’ rights are important as well, so the key is civil communication between all parties involved in order to resolve concerns.”
In October, a report by the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), “Powering West Virginia,” shows that increased production of the mineral-rich Marcellus and Utica shale formations has identified West Virginia as the seventh-largest natural gas-producing state in the country.
Since 2010, West Virginia’s core shale-related industry employment increased 77.54 percent, according to the report.
According to the latest CEA study, oil and gas pipeline construction jobs in West Virginia grew from almost 1,800 at the end of 2016 to 5,130 by the end of the third quarter in 2017 — a 185 percent increase.
Also, since 2010, the severance tax on natural gas extraction has provided $865.8 million to state and local governments in West Virginia.
“West Virginia needs to take advantage of all of its strengths, and our abundant supply of natural gas is one of those strengths,” Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce President Bill Bissett said. “Our goal in this part of the state is as we see this tremendous growth in natural gas, is there a way we can take advantage of this energy resource to build manufacturing, grow pipeline infrastructure, attract new manufacturing and find ways for existing businesses to take advantage as well.”
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