CHAMPION - It's been several months since Jim Rios has been out of work, but he said he's not losing hope.
Thursday, Rios spent time gathering information for possible leads on jobs in the welding field, especially related to the oil and gas industry locally. The Cortland man, who had worked as a subcontractor inside Warren's RG Steel plant, found himself unemployed when the mill closed following its bankruptcy filing in May.
''I have a little bit of welding background, but I have got to work on my skills,'' Rios said Thursday evening after sitting in on a seminar presented by the Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program, or OOGEEP, at Kent State Trumbull Campus.
The seminar was linked to the university's annual fall job fair sponsored by Warren City Councilwoman Cheryl Saffold, Trumbull County One Stop and AVI Foodsystems which took place earlier in the day.
Welding was one of several career paths described by Charlie Dixon, OOGEEP's safety and work force training administrator to a crowd of several dozen on campus. OOGEEP is a non-profit, industry-funded education program established to promote Ohio's oil and gas drilling and producing industry.
Other related career paths Dixon described included heavy equipment operators, mechanical maintenance, machinists, pipefitters, truck drivers, diesel mechanics, roustabouts and more.
''Higher education is great, but we need to be looking at certificate programs and technical training,'' Dixon said. ''Do what you do best. The industry doesn't necessarily expect you to jump right up and become a directional driller. That is why you are seeing out-of-state license plates.''
But after local workers are trained, he said most companies will hire locally. He pointed out that in Pennsylvania, which is already about five years into the drilling process, about 75 percent of the hirees are Pennsylvania natives.
Dixon cautioned, though, that many of the jobs are tedious, hard work that require being outside in all types of weather and having high skill levels. The reward is high-paying positions.
A 2011 OOGEEP study estimated that Ohio's natural gas and crude oil industry will help create and support more than 200,000 jobs by 2015. During that time, industry wages are projected to grow to more than $12 billion in annual salaries and personal income.
Dixon provided handouts outlining more than 70 jobs related to the drilling business, and ranging from positions requiring high levels of education like attorneys, geologists and accountants to more entry-level positions like automation technicians, derrickhands, equipment operators and roustabouts.
While he wasn't accepting resumes, he did give some tips on where to go to find work, starting with the websites of large oil companies like Chesapeake, BP and Haliburton.
The information was consumed by Trumbull Career and Technical Center teacher Jason Rupe who attended the seminar hoping to get information he can share with his students.
''One of our responsibilities is not only to educate, but to give them opportunities,'' Rupe said. He was pleased to see those opportunities locally for his students who are more technical minded.
Dixon agreed with that assessment.
''Economic opportunities, they are abounding,'' Dixon said. ''Just remember, they are not going to be here overnight.''