Lafayette job fair draws applicants for jobs in oil, gas industry

Lamont Cooley drove four hours from Laurel, Miss., to Lafayette on Tuesday morning in search of employment at a job fair. He’s been unemployed since January.

“I’m trying to get a job,” Cooley told Debbie Bonnette, a recruiter for Nabors, a worldwide drilling and well services company in the oil and gas industry.

“Tell me what you need, what’s your job, because what we’re looking for is CDL drivers. You got a CDL (commercial driver’s license)?” Bonnette said.

The 32-year-old Cooley told her no, but he did recently complete a welding course.

Bonnette told him that maybe Nabors could place him at drilling sites in east and west Texas.

“Are you willing to relocate?” she asked.

“Yes ma’am,” Cooley said. He shook her hand and moved to the next booth.

More than 100 job seekers met with representatives from 10 companies that drill oil and gas wells or work in other areas of the industry, which is going gang busters. The attendees Tuesday came in suits or shorts, blue jeans or knit slacks. Most carried ré sumé s.

The fair was held in the Convention Center of the Cajundome, and was sponsored by the San Antonio, Texas, division of Job News.

Kevin Robbins, with Job News, said the pool of qualified applicants is tight, a condition that has companies trying to lure employees from other firms.

Robbins said truck drivers are in particular demand.

Drillers use vast quantities of chemicals, water and sand to loosen natural gas and oil trapped within shale rock in a process called hydraulic fracturing. Each well needs millions of gallons of water that must, in most cases, be trucked in.

“They can literally walk into a company and get $65,000, $70,000 a year,” Robbins said.

Jamal Nabi, a controls engineer, was one of three who manned the Halliburton booth Tuesday.

He said he was looking for employees to work offshore for Halliburton.

Looking around, Nabi shook his head at the job seekers who showed up with hair uncombed, inappropriate clothing, shirts untucked, no ré sumé s, no spunk.

“I want to see a little enthusiasm,” he said.

Three booths away from Halliburton, Dai Nguyen and Stacy Benandi talked to candidates about Fab-Con, a steel fabricator with locations along the Gulf Coast, including in Venice and Morgan City.

They were looking for experienced welders and fitters for offshore work and in their fabrication shops.

“We’re getting lots of bites,” said Benandi, the company’s safety director. “We will hire every welder and fitter we can find.”

Nguyen, who directs Fab-Con’s personnel decisions, said the company also trains candidates, like some at the job fair, with no experience.

Unemployment rate figures released by the U.S. Department of Labor show a tight labor market in Lafayette, in Louisiana and in the South.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that in May unemployment in Louisiana stood at 6.8 percent.

In the whole South, those without a job and looking for work accounted for 7.2 percent in May.

In April, the unemployment rate in Lafayette was 4.6 percent, according to the Labor Bureau.