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Thousands of Ukrainians Seek Employment in North Dakota Oil Fields to Assist Families Impacted by War

by Ryan Lee
6 comments
fokus keyword Ukrainians

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Maksym Bunchukov’s memories of rockets exploding in Zaporizhzhia when the Ukrainian conflict started still haunt him.

“The experience was horrifying,” he remarked. He and his spouse sent their grown daughter to Lviv for protection and later joined her with their animals.

Now, roughly a year and a half since the onset of the war, Bunchukov is among thousands of Ukrainians in North Dakota, following a century-old tradition.

He is one of the 16 recent arrivals, participating in a test initiative through the Uniting for Ukraine humanitarian campaign to hire refugees and migrants amid a labor shortage. As part of the North Dakota Petroleum Council’s Bakken Global Recruitment of Oilfield Workers initiative, 12 more Ukrainians are set to arrive by August 15.

Some individuals intend to relocate their families to North Dakota, while others plan to eventually return to Ukraine.

“I plan to bring my wife, daughter, cat, and dog here,” Bunchukov told The Big Big News shortly after arriving.

Brent Sanford, Project Manager and ex-lieutenant governor who witnessed the Bakken oil boom during his mayorship of Watford City from 2010 to 2016, stated that the Bakken program serves both humanitarian and employment purposes.

Initially, the oil boom attracted an “organic workforce” from western North Dakota, but the Great Recession soon drew thousands from other states and nations for lucrative positions, according to Sanford.

Advancements in horizontal drilling and fracking allowed for extracting oil from deep underground.

“People arrived from everywhere by every conceivable means for job opportunities,” said Council President Ron Ness. “Those who were struggling financially found a way to start anew in North Dakota.”

However, events like the 2015 downturn, the COVID-19 pandemic, and other shocks likely sent workers back to their home states, particularly to larger, warmer cities, Sanford observed. Workforce challenges have grown “extremely pronounced” in the past year, Ness noted.

Around 2,500 jobs are available in an oil field producing 1.1 million barrels daily, Ness estimated. Employers might not post for every job, but for multiple vacancies at once.

Uniting for Ukraine seemed well-suited for North Dakota due to common Ukrainian heritage, climate, and agrarian values, according to an immigration law firm.

The program’s backers, including business owners and employees, commit to assisting Ukrainians with employment, healthcare, education, and housing.

Approximately 160 Ukrainians have settled in North Dakota, primarily in Bismarck, under Uniting for Ukraine, State Refugee Coordinator Holly Triska-Dally said.

Recent applications from potential sponsors have increased significantly, likely from growing awareness and thriving Ukrainians supporting family.

The relatively small number of arrivals is significant for cities like Minot and Dickinson, where there’s a substantial chance workers’ families will contribute to the local economy and education, Triska-Dally noted.

Bunchukov and other new arrivals, with backgrounds in various fields including Alaska’s seafood industry, work for different companies like road contractor Baranko Bros. Inc. Many of these workers have Social Security numbers and English skills.

Dmytro Haiman, another Ukrainian worker, recounted his efforts to aid his hometown, Chernihiv, during the war and his aspiration to help rebuild his nation through work in water transportation.

The Bakken program targets 100 workers by the end of 2023 and 400 more within a year, including non-Ukrainians, with various job roles.

Starting wages are at $20 an hour with quick advancement opportunities. Workers have flexibility in the Uniting for Ukraine program, which provides temporary “humanitarian parole” with potential long-term prospects, subject to federal decisions.

Assisted by four translators, workers are accommodated in apartments and extended-stay hotels. Companies like the one run by Glenn Baranko, whose great-grandfather was from Ukraine, have been actively recruiting.

The Ukrainian Cultural Institute in Dickinson recently hosted a lunch for newcomers, serving traditional dishes and showcasing Ukrainian culture.

Ivan Sakivskyi, another worker, expressed eagerness for opportunities like driving heavy machinery and gaining new experiences.

Although he doesn’t intend to stay in the U.S. permanently, Sakivskyi mentioned his desire to come back for work after visiting his family in Ukraine, expressing, “My heart and my soul are in Ukraine. It’s my friends. It’s my family.”

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about fokus keyword Ukrainians

Why are Ukrainians moving to North Dakota?

Ukrainians are moving to North Dakota to take up jobs in the oil fields. This move is part of a humanitarian program that aims to help them assist their families affected by the war back home. The Uniting for Ukraine program and the North Dakota Petroleum Council’s Bakken Global Recruitment of Oilfield Workers initiative are recruiting refugees and migrants to fill workforce shortages in the oil industry.

What jobs are being offered to Ukrainians in North Dakota?

The jobs being offered to Ukrainians in North Dakota include construction, oil field jobs, and other basic positions in the oil industry. The workers start at $20 an hour and can quickly rise through the ranks. Opportunities for promotion, such as driving heavy equipment, are available, and various job roles are targeted within the Bakken program.

What support is being provided to the Ukrainian workers in North Dakota?

The Ukrainian workers in North Dakota are receiving support for finding work, healthcare, education for their children, and safe and affordable housing. The program’s sponsors, including company owners, managers, and employees, are committed to helping them settle. Four translators assist with forms, training, and community acclimation, and accommodations are being arranged for the workers.

How many Ukrainians are expected to be recruited through the Bakken program?

The Bakken program aims to recruit 100 workers by the end of 2023, and 400 more within a year. These 400 may not all be Ukrainians and will be engaged in various roles such as driving, starting in shops, or building roads, pads, and fences.

How does the Uniting for Ukraine program connect with North Dakota’s culture?

The Uniting for Ukraine program was deemed suitable for North Dakota due to common Ukrainian heritage, similar climate, and agrarian values. The Ukrainian Cultural Institute in the area preserves Ukrainian heritage and even hosts gatherings to celebrate Ukrainian culture. This connection fosters a sense of community and helps in the acclimation of the newcomers.

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6 comments

Maria G. August 6, 2023 - 6:09 am

wow! 100 workers by end of 2023. thats a big number. How can i donate or help these folks??

Reply
Timothy O'Neal August 6, 2023 - 12:53 pm

I worked in Bakken oil fields once. Tough job but good pay. Great to see those jobs helping people from war torn countries like Ukraine. Keep it up ND.

Reply
John Smith August 6, 2023 - 5:11 pm

This is such a moving story. Ukrainians leaving their home to find work, and North Dakota stepping up. feels really positive!

Reply
Alice R. August 6, 2023 - 9:08 pm

My family came from Ukraine. seeing this connection between my old home and new one, it just makes me feel… I don’t know, connected somehow. Love to all involved.

Reply
Sara K. August 7, 2023 - 12:05 am

This is very touching. Can’t even imagine what these people are going through. Its good to know theres hope out there for them.

Reply
Greg Johnson August 7, 2023 - 12:06 am

they need to do more for American citizens too. But I suppose helping others is good, Still, look after your own first.

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