Roustabout program provides opportunity

20 students graduated with oil industry certificates

Usually graduates wear caps and gowns, not safety-vests and hard hats.


But that’s what the 20 graduates from the entry-level roustabout training program wore to accept their certificates on Friday morning at the Kenai Peninsula College Kenai River Campus.

The rigorous, eight-hour-per-day, three-week course is designed to prepare students for immediate employment in the oil field with service companies and drilling companies. Upon completing the course, students received all the necessary job skills as well as federal and state certifications from first aid training to forklift operating to North Slope Training Cooperative and others.

The certificates and training received through the course have a price tag of about $5,500 per student, but, thanks to a grant fund through the Alaska Department of Labor presented to the University of Alaska Mining and Petroleum Training Service, the entry-level roustabout program students didn’t have pay for the course.

Diana Spann, Peninsula regional manager for the Department of Labor workforce development, told the class before they received their certificates that the department feels the course that teaches the students about the environment in the oil field as well as safety is valuable.

“We hope they (the state) gives us the funds to do it again,” she said.

The program has only been offered at the Kenai campus once before in 2007. Dennis Steffy, director of UA MAPTS saw a demand for that kind of job opening up, so they decided to offer the course.

“We are hoping the trends continue in employment and everybody will get hired on pretty quickly. If they do, then we’ll run another class,” Steffy said.

Steffy is also one of the instructors for the course. He has more than 45 years of experience in the oil industry and knows that employers are looking for people who participate in class discussions, work well in a team and show cooperation, responsibility and integrity.

One graduate, Tim Poulsen, who decided to branch out of the oil industry, has a maintenance position waiting for him in Dutch Harbor.

“We took a lot of things in this class that were attractive to them (his employers),” Poulsen said. “... This puts us on a whole other level than other applicants.”

The class and certificates has put the graduates on a career path with higher wages, better opportunities and a chance to work their way up in the industry, Spann said.

“For myself it will give me better opportunities,” said graduate Slade Wirth. “I’ll have the opportunity to make a career ... and actually contribute to society.”

Robert Forstner recently completed a degree in process technology from KPC. He took the course to get the certificates he needs to help him get a job.

“I hope to be working for one of these big companies and move up as fast as I can,” he said.

Steffy said the oil industry not only presents great opportunities with higher wages, but that “you work with a lot of great people, too.

“It’s one of the reasons, over the years, why I’ve stayed around,” he said.

After three-weeks together, the students said they have become good friends and made plans to celebrate after receiving certificates and eating cake.

“We are one big, happy family,” Forstner said.


Kaylee Osowski can be reached at


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