Watford energy trains displaced oilfield worker in height of pandemic with Technical Skills Training Grant

Kayla Jo Finley
Special to Devils Lake Daily Journal

NORTH DAKOTA - In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many North Dakota businesses experienced an unprecedented shift within the workforce. 

Some experienced a loss of available employees while many other members of the workforce found themselves in need of a new career. Much of the shift, reflected the demand for a skilled workforce. 

To address these presented challenges, the 67th Legislative Assembly allocated the North Dakota Department of Commerce funds to administer the Technical Skills Training Grant to support accelerated, skills-based and hands-on workforce training programs. 

Commerce saw tremendous success with the first cycle and remains committed to assisting North Dakota businesses more than ever now in the second cycle of the grant. 

“Helping North Dakotans develop the skills required to fill the state’s most in-demand jobs is a top priority for several state agencies, including Commerce, and we were pleased to see so many training providers utilize this grant to do just that in 2020,” Commerce Workforce Director Katie Ralston said. “Due to the demand and success of this program, we knew that a second round would increase the overall impact of these grant dollars by helping more people rejoin the workforce.”  

The first cycle of the Technical Skills Training Grant program opened for applications nearly a year ago in conjunction with the ND Smart Restart initiative. 

During this time, Silver Fox Energy, formally known as Silver Fox Pipeline and Facility Services in Watford City, not only experienced a decrease in business, but also found that many people were not motivated to return to work or the ones who wanted to work, did not have the skillset the company needed to complete bids. 

“COVID-19 completely slowed down our industry,” Silver Fox Energy Owner and Director of Business Development Kara Glenn said. “Usually that time of year we would be turning in three to five bids a week and as a result of the pandemic we were maybe getting one a month.” 

After business started to pick up again, Silver Fox Energy began searching for people to come back to work but found that the workforce dynamic drastically shifted into a new direction. 

“The majority of people we did ask to come back to work were making more on unemployment,” Glenn said. “My small company was getting less work than ever before and we were having to pay high wages just to keep employees.” 

Glenn then heard about the Technical Skills Training Grant and saw it as an opportunity to get her business back on solid ground.  

“I really wanted to train the people who wanted to get back to work,” Glenn said. 

After applying for the grant, Silver Fox Energy was awarded funding for three new training programs. With the funds, the company successfully trained more than 12 displaced oilfield workers in welding pipeline. 

Glenn said the grant left a lasting impact on not only her company but her community. 

“Our community’s youth were the ones who were watching,” she said. “I get asked over and over if we are going to have another program. The students who graduated my course all want to come back and work for our company.” 

Glenn said she highly recommends the grant, especially to companies that are giving time and money to train their industry’s workforce. For any company applying for the current grant cycle, she encourages them to, “Keep organized documentation of all receipts and expenses. Be patient and respectful to the grant coordinators. Understand how amazing of a state this is, for making something like this available.” 

Commerce is currently in the process and will continue accepting applications for the Technical Skills Training Grant until all funds are allocated, with a program closing date of Dec. 30, 2021. To learn more or to apply for the grant visit belegendary.link/Technical-Skills-Training-Grant 

Eligible applicants include North Dakota colleges and universities (for non-degree programs), business, non-profit organizations and or trades organizations/associations in North Dakota. Internal training programs for incumbent workers are not eligible for this grant.