BISMARCK – When North Dakota State University graduate Kevin Black was looking to start his career in 2011, he feared he’d have to leave his home state.
“I really had every intention of going to Minneapolis because up until that point, if you were an engineering grad, the odds were you were going to have to go to Minneapolis or someplace out of state if you wanted a job in the engineering field,” said Black, who grew up in Grand Forks.
Instead, Black decided to explore opportunities in western North Dakota, where the Bakken oil boom was creating a demand for educated workers.
Black, who spent his last year at NDSU as student body president, started out in the Bakken “in the mud and getting dirty,” collecting samples at oil well sites for testing and analysis.
After nine months in the oil industry, Black began working for Baker Hughes, one of the world’s largest oilfield service companies.
He advanced from working in the field to spending more of his time in the company’s Minot office doing sales and business development. Black, 26, is an account coordinator for the company’s line of production fluids that prevent corrosion and mineral deposits from developing in oil wells.
“If people are willing to come out here and start from the ground up and work hard, the sky’s the limit,” said Black, whose degree is in industrial engineering and management. “I’ve been blessed to be a benefactor of the times, I guess.”
Black is the third generation of his family to work in the oil industry in North Dakota. Oil brought Black’s grandfather, a mud engineer, to Williston in the 1950s during the state’s first oil boom. Black’s father and uncles operated a drilling fluid business in North Dakota in the 1980s.
Unlike the previous generations that experienced busts, Black is expecting to work in the oil industry for the long term.
“I think they all recognize this is very different than the past oil booms,” said Black, who also has several cousins working in the industry in North Dakota.
Black’s wife, Kalli, is also a North Dakota native, and now helps her father run Artz Insurance in Westhope.
During the past few years, Black has recruited some of his friends to work in the oil and gas industry, and he’s seeing a reversal of the trend of college graduates leaving North Dakota.
“More and more I meet people from the state who are moving back either home or moving from the east to the west because they recognize the tremendous opportunity that’s out here to start a career and grow pretty quickly,” Black said. “It’s exciting to see.”