The natural gas utility industry continually looks for ways to enhance its services for commercial, municipal and residential customers, whether through technological advancements, a more mobile workforce or innovation.
Many of the industry’s recent efforts to evolve with the pace of change focus on workforce development in the energy sector. According to the Center for Energy Workforce Development (Nov 2015), the industry is working to build an internal and external talent pipeline to meet workforce needs through collaboration with community colleges, such as Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC). NICC offers one of only two gas utility degree programs in the State of Iowa.
Al Dolan, a Gas Utility Construction and Service instructor, sees nothing but futures with bright careers unfolding for his students.
“If you are willing to travel, graduates can take advantage of great career opportunities in the natural gas industry and gain experience to be very marketable,” explained Dolan, a 1984 Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning graduate. “There are utility companies who have employed people for 30 years. This is a good, well-paying job.”
Dolan would know. He worked for Black Hills Energy for 20 years, the first 10 years as a service technician and the last half as a welder and operations technician. As an operations tech, Dolan performed service and construction work on large volume meter sets and odorizers, as well as conducting leak investigations and inspections
“The employment opportunities for graduates who complete the one-year program at the College are so much greater than they are for someone who has a four-year degree. Once you gain experience in this field, you can go anywhere,” he said.
As natural gas industry employees retire, NICC Gas Utility Construction and Service graduates who are mobile and willing to learn are valuable candidates in the talent pipeline. With an annual income range of $29,615 – $45,204, the career outlook for Gas Utility Construction and Service graduates is strong. Be Bold. Start Your Career.
A career in the natural gas utility industry offers many benefits for prospective employees: good benefits and healthcare, career advancement opportunities, competitive pay and job security.
Gas utility work is also something of a tradition for the Faulhaber family.
“My dad is a network engineer for Black Hills Energy who occasionally travels to Cheyenne, Wyo., and Dubuque. My uncle works in a cubicle right across from him at the company’s Nebraska location,” explained Zach Faulhaber, a native of Omaha who moved to Blair, Neb., in 2004. “I’m mechanically inclined and enjoy working with my hands. I want to work for Black Hills Energy and keep the tradition going in the family.”
Zach Faulhaber enrolled in the Gas Utility Construction and Service program at Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) after researching community colleges in Iowa.
“I called the human resources director at Black Hills Energy, and he said to enroll in the program at Northeast Iowa Community College,” Faulhaber said, who very likely would have earned admission into any college he applied to after scoring a near-perfect 34 on the ACT.
“I’ve been welding since high school, and I find this type of work far more rewarding than sitting in an office all day. Life is more meaningful doing something you like,” he said.