As industry insiders tout the growing opportunities for Blacks and other minorities in the oil and natural gas sector, breaking into the industry can still present challenges.

From access to capital and understanding the industry jargon to knowing how and when to pursue business opportunities, the learning curve can be steep.

The industry’s impact on the U.S. labor force, however, is undeniable.

The natural gas industry supported more than 4 million jobs across the U.S. in 2015, according to the State of American Energy 2018 report. That number is expected to rise to 6 million jobs by 2040.

When it comes to hourly wages, Black workers also fare better in the oil and natural gas (ONG) industry.

Blacks in non-ONG industries make $20.18 in hourly wages compared to Blacks that work in the ONG industry that earn $24.87 in hourly wages. Blacks with STEM degrees earn about $17 more in hourly wages in the ONG industry than outside of the industry. Here is some advice:

  • Do research and learn the business.

Tyra Metoyer, the external mobilization manager for the American Petroleum Institute (API), said that it’s essential for business owners seeking to break into the ONG industry to learn as much as they can before pursuing contracts.

Being knowledgeable about the supply chain, payment cycles and staying up-to-date about industry-related innovation can separate new business owners from their competition.

She said that companies also need to think about how they can supply ancillary services to the industry like financial, transportation, catering and custodial services.

  1. Know the importance of networking.

Metoyer said that job seekers and business owners must network at conferences, trade shows and online.

“Keep talking to people and asking questions,” said Metoyer. “You’ve got to find your champions in the industry. Sometimes your champion isn’t necessarily the one that opens the door; your champion might be the one that explains something to you.”

  • Avoid pitfalls.

One of the worst things that can happen is for a business to land a big contract then fail to deliver the goods. To avoid that mistake, Metoyer recommended that minority and women business owners partner with other companies to go after the more complex contracts.

Metoyer also warned against business owners focusing only on “tier one” direct-to-client business relationships, especially, when they can gain more experience and credibility as a subcontractor.

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