A Guest Blog by Dan Carter, Public & Government Affairs for ExxonMobil Billings Refinery
If there is one word that describes a challenge that crosses all business sectors in 2022, it would be workforce.
The ability to recruit and retain a high-quality workforce is the key to reliable, sustainable and profitable futures for many companies in the manufacturing sector. And that includes ExxonMobil.
ExxonMobil, one of the world’s largest publicly traded energy providers and chemical manufacturers, develops and applies next-generation technologies to help safely and responsibly meet the world’s growing needs for energy. ExxonMobil has one of three oil refineries in the Yellowstone Valley. Each of those refineries are part of a complex manufacturing system that involves hundreds of employees and contract workers that provide needed fuel for the Rocky Mountain region.
Over the course of our long history in Montana, the oil and gas sector has relied on a steady stream of well-prepared workers. Those include engineers, trained at the best universities from around the globe, all the way to operators who pack a Montana-made work ethic in their lunch boxes every day.
As we move into the 21st century, as energy companies meet the dual challenge of fueling economies while addressing an energy transition, the need for top-notch workers is as strong as ever.
At ExxonMobil, we are taking a multifaceted approach to workforce. We have 320 employees at the Billings refinery and want to grow their competency by leveraging internal training and experience as well as external opportunities such as industry-led training courses for engineers.
In addition, engineers, machinists, lab techs and other professionals at the ExxonMobil Billings refinery are fully involved in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) outreach and activities in a variety of ways. Most recently, the team provided encouragement and expertise to middle school students at Lockwood School District as four LEGO League teams were formed. The students used coding skills and collaborative problem-solving skills to take on a variety of robotics challenges and competed at a state competition in Bozeman.
In the community, ExxonMobil brings likeminded STEM enthusiasts work together to build capacity for students who are thirsty for more hands-on activities that are relevant to future workforce opportunities.
Partnering with other businesses, industry representatives, education professionals and non-profits, we support STEM Yellowstone, a unique program to engage kids in a hands-on and relevant fashion. Since 2015, that STEM project has provided influential events for more than 2,000 kids with nearly 100 volunteers from around the county.
Subject areas have included health, medicine, coding, computer science, technology, energy, engineering and environmental science. For us, it’s not only fun, but it’s a workforce development issue.
Students are encouraged to be fearless while business/industry partners are urged to be bold in a new integrated approach to learning and training. The real-world application of math, chemistry, physics, engineering, and computer science has a major impact on feeding workforce needs.