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Some Montana petroleum engineers are making it work during pandemic

Posted at 5:17 PM, Dec 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-18 19:46:46-05

HELENA — Montana Tech in Butte graduates some of the most promising petroleum engineers in the nation - but the pandemic has created uncertainty for students preparing to enter the field. MTN's Phoenix O'Connor talked to experts about how graduates can continue to grow their skills, while waiting for the industry to rebound.

Alan Olson, the Executive Director for the Montana Petroleum Association, says 2020 has been a bust for the oil industry. "I think one of the biggest things that have hit our industry is people aren't traveling. The use of transportation fuels has dropped off drastically," Olson said.

The downturn has prompted some Montana petroleum engineers who work in places like Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Canada to return home to the Treasure State.

Josh Cook of Joliet is one of those engineers. He has been looking for work the past year, but is also exploring other avenues, like being his own boss.

"For petroleum engineers, especially like those who do what I do, I was like, immediately, go get an LLC, get on LinkedIn and market yourself,"

All the forms to create a Limited Liability Corporation, or LLC, can be found and filled out online at the Montana Secretary of State's website. The state will provide the start-up with an Employer Identification Number (EIN). It will cost a nominal fee.

Anyone looking to start their business can also get help from the Montana Small Business Association. They offer advice and classes for things like drafting a business plan.

If you are not ready to strike out on your own, Cook suggests continuing your education, or acquiring professional certifications.

Olson adds that graduates ready to work could consider other work in their industry or other industries with overlapping skills. "Things that are coming down the pipeline, construction, heavy construction, drillers roughnecks, in general, and getting into these kinds of jobs, and I would encourage them to look at that," said Olson.

Lastly, they offer advice to network and make contact with people who can help you find work.

"Whether you have work or not, okay, then, call these guys once a month, put that on a piece of paper, so when you do need work you are accessible to them other than just LinkedIn and you are on speed dial on the phone," advises Cook.

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