North Dakota State University is looking for more employers in the Bakken to participate in a workforce study aimed at gaining a better understanding of the motivations and goals influencing oil and gas employees.

“It’s a project to try to get a little better handle on some of the perceptions, tensions and characteristics of the workforce,” said Nancy Hodur, a researcher with NDSU’s Agribusiness and Applied Economics Department.

The plan is to use the data collected from the survey to conduct projections and model the service population based on population potential, she said.

B&G Oilfield Services, headquartered in Williston, North Dakota, has agreed to team up with NDSU as a study participant.

“We appreciate the opportunity to provide feedback on surveys of this nature knowing that the information gathered will assist North Dakota leaders with creating solutions that will ultimately help our people and our organization,” said Patrick Bertagnolli, B&G director of human resources and a member of the North Dakota Workforce Development Council.

He sees the information gathered by the survey as not only being useful to B&G’s efforts to recruit and retain quality employees, but also as being important to the council, which is working to develop workforce training and a strategic plan for the state.

“What’s valuable about it is that it gives the frontline folks an opportunity to express the things that they like and the things that they’d like improved,” Bertagnolli explained.

Hodur said that results of the study will help NDSU’s researchers in exploring whether some of the assumptions made about the oil and gas industry workforce are correct.

“One of the things that’s unique about western North Dakota is that we have a lot of people working out there who don’t consider North Dakota their home,” Hodur said. “They’re going to stay a while, save up some money and leave. There’s a perception that if we have housing, all of these people will move here, live here and be residents. We weren’t quite so sure that was a correct premise.”

The study seeks to address issues associated with the rapid growth in western North Dakota, including employee retention, community development and the allocation of government services. Hodur said the research gathered will help communities and employers plan for and provide the appropriate mix of public and private services for residents.

Once a company agrees to participate in the study, Hodur provides it with the text for an e-mail sent to employees. The e-mail explains what the survey is about and provides a link to the online questionnaire. The survey takes about five minutes and can be completed from a smartphone.

Hodur said the survey asks questions such as, “Do you want to move to North Dakota? If yes and you haven’t, what are the impediments? If you haven’t, why?”

When Hodur began meeting with representatives from the oil and gas industry last summer, she realized that she would need the help of B&G and other employers to get an accurate picture of the workforce.

“The employers out there know that it’s in their best interest to have happy employees that live here and that work here long-term rather than having high turnover,” she said. “B&G said they’d be happy to help out by reaching out to their workforce. I have several other firms that have agreed to do the same.”

Employers interested in participating in the survey can call Hodur at 701-231-7357 or reach her by e-mail at

“Everybody gets to see all the results,” she noted. “This is a publicly funded study, so anything that we find out, it’s all going to be out there and transparent for everyone to look at and use.”

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