An apprenticeship program created last year to fill a need for workers in the Bakken has been recognized by the US Department of Labor.

Barry Dutton, state director of the US Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship, last week presented an official “Registered Apprenticeship Program” certificate to Hess Corp. for its Job Experience Training program. JET provides rigorous on-the-job training related to operations in the oil and gas industry, along with classroom training at Bismarck State College.

“Hess has gone out of the way to develop an outstanding training program, which I think will go a long way in the oil and gas field and in workforce development in general,” Dutton said.

Julie Vetter, manager of competency and training for Hess’ North Dakota assets, said the goal of the apprentice program is "to build a safe and skilled workforce for the state of North Dakota and for the industry in general,” according to Minot Daily News. “One of the reasons we started this apprenticeship program is we were hearing across the board how difficult it is to find skilled laborers.”

Two trainers provide classroom and on-the-job coaching in the two-year JET program, but apprentices also work alongside mentors, who are Hess employees identified as high performers.

Hess finds when apprentices take their final assessments, they are ahead of workers who have been with the company for two to four years but haven’t gone through apprenticeships, Vetter said.

“They are getting that hands-on, individualized time with a mentor, and that is really making all the difference,” she said.

Rachel Allison, competency and training supervisor for the Hess’ Bakken assets and JET program manager, said the JET program started in 2017 with four apprentices. Hess discovered the program can develop worker skills in half the time it typically takes to train a new employee, she said.

“On average, it was taking about a year for an off-the-street hire to come up to speed and be fully safe and efficient out there as reliability operators. Through the apprenticeship program, we were able to do that within six months.”

Hess currently has 14 apprentices training as reliability operators. It hopes to bring in 21 additional participants over the course of 2019.

Allison said Hess is actively recruiting former military personnel and high school students with the right background and aptitude. BSC will continue to be the primary classroom education provider because of its world-class program, she said.

Hess also looks to expand the program to other work positions in addition to reliability operators. “This is really an opportunity for anybody in North Dakota who is interested in learning a skilled trade,” Allison said.

Vetter said the program has three components. The first is a job shadow opportunity that is ideal for middle school through college students who want to learn more about the jobs available in the industry.

The second component is an eight- to 10-week, paid internship. If the internship proves to be a good fit, an intern can apply for an apprenticeship, which also is paid.