WHS Petroleum Class is proving positive for oil industry

Published: Feb. 12, 2020 at 6:10 PM CST
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Williston High School’s Petroleum Career Class is the first of its kind in the state. Its instructor uses his 40 years of experience in the oil industry to prepare students for the workforce.

There have been more than 1,100 new job openings in northwest North Dakota this year, according to the latest job service numbers.

Students at WHS are getting an in-depth look at the oil industry to eventually fill the thousands of open job positions in the Bakken.

As a petroleum geologist, Gerald McGillivray teaches them everything from rig types to drilling processes, and he is changing students’ ideas about working in the energy industry.

“I get more girls, because they think you’ve got to work on a rig, or you got to work outside, and I say no there’s a lot of technical things. You see a lot more women engineers, and even the outside jobs. See a lot of women truck drivers. It’s not a man’s world. It used to be, maybe, but it’s gotten a lot better for women,” said McGillivray, WHS Petroleum Program instructor.

Now, more female students are considering energy careers.

Diana Gutierrez, WHS junior, stated, “At first I kind of didn’t, until I got into this class. I started looking into it, and I think petroleum engineering would be a choice for me.”

McGillivray said students in the class get a head start on their future adding, “A lot of the classes I’m teaching here are real similar to what I taught in college. This will probably give them a step-up in a job interview.”

Many of his students moved to Williston so their parents could work in the oilfield. Now, some are considering possibilities they hadn’t before.

Zydane Young, WHS freshman said, “It made me think about more careers that I could possibly go into, and gave me more ideas of what I could do in the future.”

Anthony Eymann, WHS senior added, “It’s more appealing because we talk about more than just rigs. It’s energy and all of that.”

McGillivray hopes other Bakken-region high schools consider adding a petroleum program to their curriculums.

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