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The Bakken headhunter: Oil industry recruiter trys to lure in families

FNS Photo by Amy Dalrymple Pat Bertagnolli, left, director of human resources for B&G Oilfield Services, talks to a job-seeker at a job fair in Williston on Thursday.

WILLISTON — Pat Bertagnolli’s official job is to recruit oilfield workers, but unofficially he’s a headhunter for Bakken communities.

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The director of human resources for B&G Oilfield Services in Williston tries to recruit spouses and families to move to North Dakota along with the workers he hires.

“To retain good people, I really believe they need to have their families out here,” said Bertagnolli, who met with potential hires last week at a job fair in Williston that attracted 1,100 people.

Many job-seekers he meets don’t realize that North Dakota has job opportunities outside of the oil industry, he said.

“I love nothing more than when a truck driver tells me his wife is a radiologist or a nurse or a teacher,” Bertagnolli said. “I do some soft recruiting for other businesses.”

Bertagnolli, 48, formerly of Helena, Mont., shares his own story when he’s meeting with applicants.

He decided to move to North Dakota after spending 22 years working for UPS, a position that required him to be on the road traveling throughout Montana and Wyoming.

The job opportunities he’s found in North Dakota since moving to the state 2½ years ago have allowed Bertagnolli to come off the road and spend more time with family.

“I’ve got some lost years to make up for,” Bertagnolli said.

In addition, his family members have all found good jobs in the state, Bertagnolli said. His wife works in finance for an oilfield company, their son is a civil engineer, their daughter is office manager for a dental clinic and their son who’s in college may come to North Dakota this summer.

The family shares a five-bedroom house they purchased in Watford City.

Bertagnolli, who serves as a member of the North Dakota Workforce Planning Committee, also tries to connect new hires with resources to help them find permanent housing.

More companies are starting to focus on recruiting families and long-term workers to North Dakota, said Cindy Sanford, manager of the Williston Branch of Job Service North Dakota, which organized last week’s job fair.

“It’s no longer a boom. We’re trying to build a community together,” Sanford said.

April Baumgarten
April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, as the news editor. She works with a team of talented journalists and editors, who strive to give the Grand Forks area the quality news readers deserve to know. Baumgarten grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family continues to raise registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college,  she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as the Dickinson city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.