Driving by a pumpjack, you’ll be able to hear the creaks it makes while it goes up and down. While for most people this is just the sound of metal machinery moving, for many in the area it’s the sound of the main economic force.
Whether it’s a boom or a bust, you be able to see the effect it has on other jobs in the area. Recently after years of low crude oil prices, the economy has started to take an upturn. People are now leaving jobs they’ve known for years, and flocking to the allure of the oil field.
One area that’s hit especially hard is law enforcement.
“There is definitely a correlation here between the local economy and officer shortage,” says Corporal Steve Lesueur of the Odessa Police Department.
As the price of oil goes up, more people trade their badges for hardhats.
“We started to experience a boom I want to say around 13′-14′, and we were several dozen officers short,” says Lesueur. “We then had the bust and got back up to full staff, and now we are starting to experience a boom again.”
But of course, law enforcement isn’t the only profession. As the last bell rings, classrooms are seeing fewer teachers and the oil field is seeing more workers.
“You know to be honest we can’t compete with the pay,” says Ector County ISD Superintendent Tom Crowe.
For Ector County schools, Crowe says since he started five years ago, he’s seen nearly 150 teachers leave for jobs in the oil field.
“When somebody offers you significantly more money that we can pay them, I can’t sit here and blame them. They are trying to take care of their families,” says Crowe.
Breaking it down by the numbers shows why for many, the oil field is so tempting.
In the Permian Basin, salaries for teachers and police officers can range from $50-60 thousand. However, there are exceptions and people around the area who do make more. An experienced pumper or gauger in the oil field can make up to $80 thousand a year plus bonus. Field foreman can see six-figure salaries, but it doesn’t come without a cost.
“If you’re thinking this is going to be one of those things you are going to jump out and make tons of money, you might be mistaken there,” says Marteis Rogers.
Rogers worked for years as a teacher and coach in the Permian basin, until he also moved on to the oil field.
“There is a lot of work that goes into this, a lot of your time that is demanded of you,” says Rogers. “I mean, you are doing a lot of work. Is it worth it? yes but it’s all based on what you are doing and how you feel about it.”
In the oil field, working more than 40 hours a week is the norm, and overtime is a big part of the life style.
“Whatever they asked of me to do I did, and I didn’t complain,” says Rogers. “That’s the attitude you have to have in the oil field.”+
As we inch more and more into a boom in the Permian Basin, industry professionals expect more people will head to the oil and gas industry. Continuing the cycle that’s driven this area for decades.
“I started at the bottom, the very bottom, and I worked my way through. So before they make that decision understand what you are going to have to go through,” says Rogers.
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