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Business in the Bakken

By Staff | Oct 11, 2013

Chris Bieri/PCT Kent Ellis speaks about the oil business and job opportunities to students in science classes taught by both in Frank Martz and Kari Francis. Ellis speaks to more than 4,000 students a year and has been in the oil business in the state for 33 years.

Kent Ellis has been in the oil business in North Dakota for 33 years and has seen the ups and downs.

But he told students at Rugby High School Thursday that opportunities for high-paying jobs have never been greater in the industry.

Ellis also explained how oil wells work and how many employees each company needs to function.

Speaking to science students in classes taught by Frank Martz and Kari Francis, Ellis explained how valuable a two-year technical degree can be compared to a four-year degree in the current job market.

“Especially with the two-year technical degree,” he said. “I encourage every kid to look at a two-year technical degree. It can be easily transferred to a four-year institution or a four-year engineering school .”

As the energy market in the state has shifted, Ellis has also worked as a teacher in Bismarck, making his speeches to classes a perfect mix of his two career choices.

“I’ve been in the oil business since about 1980,” he said. “As that’s gone I reactivated my teaching certificate and I own a oil/gas brokerage firm. I still do a lot of work with students, 4,000 to 7,000 a year.”

Ellis said that some studies have shown that students receiving two-year degrees have a higher wage ceiling than most with four-year degrees.

He gave students a multi-page handout, listing the dozens of different positions each company would need to operate a well.

“We do a lot of work with careers,” he said. “This is the staffing need for one large production.”

As he speaks closer to the eastern half of the state, Ellis said he often has a more captive audience.

“Just like in parts of the nation, understanding agri-business in North Dakota is just as alien,” he said. “It depends on what you’ve been exposed to. In western North Dakota, a lot of the kids have parents in the business. In eastern North Dakota, it’s a little more wow, that’s interesting information. We’re hoping to bring some of this into schools around the state. Most of it has been very positive.”

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