Patrick Coplan was born and raised in the East Texas oil industry. He says it is all he has ever known.

“I was 7 years old and my step dad took me out to the field and he said, ‘I need a pipe laid from this tank battery over here, to this pump unit over here,” 33-year-old Coplan said. “He said okay, dig it.”

Coplan went to college for geology and landed a job with a local engineering consultant.

When a recent downturn forced their doors to close a few months ago, it hit Coplan hard.

“I was sad and disappointed,” he said. “I enjoyed coming to work every day. I actually liked waking up at 7 o’clock. I looked forward to it.”

Many say surviving in the oil industry is about following the oil booms. Right now, West Texas is on an upturn but Coplan says for hundreds, moving is not economically feasible.

“People think we are making a lot of money, but we make about $15 to $20 an hour,” he said. “When you take into account travel for work, cost of living, insurance, mortgage, and salary slashes that happen even before layoffs, it doesn’t leave a lot to save. And then as soon as you do save some money, life happens.”

Steve Lynch is the operations manager for Workforce Solutions East Texas and says laid off employees have been forced to take odd jobs to survive, but newly approved state funding can transition laid off oil and gas employees into brand new careers.

“If you select a career field that’s in the training opportunities that we have, we pay for the cost of tuition fees and books, so it’s not a loan, it’s like a grant,” Lynch said.

He encouraged those who think they might not qualify to apply anyway.

“Funding is limited so the time to take advantage of this great opportunity is now,” he said.

For more information call 1-844-ETWORKS or go to the nearest Workforce Solutions.