North Dakota has long been known as an agriculture state, but when the subject of the state's workforce is broached, oil has moved to the forefront in the search for workers.
Job Service North Dakota estimates project more than 1,500 newly created job openings for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers between 2008 and 2018, an increase of more than 17 percent in the field. With the speed of growth in the state's oilfield activity, that likely means that farmers and agriculture industry truckers will be in high demand, especially once replacement openings are factored in. As part of the same analysis, Job Service found that more than 1,575 additional openings would be generated due to retirement or other earners who permanently leave their occupation. In all, Job Service estimates that more than 3,100 truck drivers will be hired by 2018.
Agricultural equipment operators such as combine operators or tractor drivers will also be in high demand, as the study indicates that a growth of nearly 12.5 percent in that field as well, plus an additional 220 openings for replacements.
At the same time, growth projected for farmworkers and laborers, such as apple pickers or vegetable loaders, will grow almost 10 percent by 2018, with 243 growth openings and 673 replacement openings.
But those numbers pale in comparison to those for oilfield jobs.
The demand for oilfield laborers is projected to increase 51 percent, as is the demand for service unit operators. Derrick operators will see a 37 percent jump.
"The demand for farm workers is nowhere near the level it is for the oilfield," said DJ McIntyre of Job Service North Dakota on Tuesday.
Agriculture can't compete with the kinds of wages paid by the oil companies either, but it isn't alone in that peril, McIntyre said.
"That pressure is felt by many industries," she said.
Though the need for workers is very real, McIntyre doesn't believe there will be much competition between the oilfield and other industries - at least not for the same workers.
"Many of these oilfield positions require a lot of skills and experience," she said.
And although the numbers indicate a demand for more farmworkers, there are also other occupations in that group that contribute to the data.
"As sophisticated as farm work has become, with the bigger equipment, is doesn't require nearly as much manpower as it once did," McIntyre said. "But another industry growing in our area that's right up there competing with some of these same people is value-added agriculture."
Regardless of their ambitions, though, McIntyre cautions that the best idea is to research goals and consult with professionals and other resources before attempting to embark on a career path in any of these industries.
"Many of these oilfield jobs are very skilled positions. If people don't have a lot of these skills, they need to really plan carefully," McIntyre said. "Check with us, check with some of the Web sites about where the best opportunities are and where they're going to fit in."