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MMS maintains strong intern and co-op programs

Job opportunities abound in the MMS Gulf of Mexico region. The agency hires geoscientists, geologists, geophysicists, petroleum engineers and environmental specialistse

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Engineers like these enjoy flexible schedules, good benefits and stability at the U.S. Department of Interior's MMS. Engineers like these enjoy flexible schedules, good benefits and stability at the U.S. Department of Interior's MMS.

Engineers like these enjoy flexible schedules, good benefits and stability at the U.S. Department of Interior's MMS.

Jobs for technical grads at the Gulf of Mexico regional office of the Minerals Management Service (MMS) are available right now, says Venessa Matthews, human resources specialist. "We're looking for geologists, geophysicists, petroleum and civil/structural engineers." The agency also hires geoscientists, environmental engineers and computer scientists, Matthews says. "We have special salary rates for engineers, because they're hard to find," she adds.

There are about 600 employees in the Gulf of Mexico office, and about 98 percent are scientific or technical professionals.

The MMS is a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Interior. The agency manages the nation's natural gas, oil and other mineral resources on the outer continental shelf. Headquarters are in Washington, DC.

The offshore minerals management program has three regions: Alaska, Gulf of Mexico and Pacific. Most of the staff for the Gulf of Mexico office are in New Orleans. The region also has offices in Houma, Lafayette and Lake Charles, LA; and Clute, TX.

Agency geoscientists analyze data collected by the petroleum industry and geophysical contractors to locate and estimate the size of gas and crude oil deposits in the offshore Gulf of Mexico region. Two to three times a year MMS holds lease auctions, where oil companies bid for the rights to explore, develop and exploit the hydrocarbon resources of specific tracts of land. "The acceptance of bids is based on an independent interpretation and review of the data by MMS scientists," Matthews says.

A successful bidder gets a lease to drill for oil and gas for seven years. During the drilling phase MMS petroleum and civil engineers ensure that rigs are structurally sound, while environmental specialists make certain that companies are not harming coral reefs, dolphins, turtles and other wildlife, as well as historical shipwrecks. If a company is successful in producing oil or gas, it pays a royalty to the federal government.

The agency expects to have seventeen summer interns in 2006, a higher number than usual. Unlike a normal summer, when student employees come from all over the country, most of them will be people who live near New Orleans or have family there, Matthews says, because local housing is in short supply since Hurricane Katrina. But the program will go forward.

Matthews says that the agency's ten-story office building in New Orleans, damaged by Katrina, is under renovation. There will be a brand new state-of-the-art work environment once remodeling is completed, she says.

People come to MMS primarily because they prefer the agency's work environment to the fast pace of private industry, Matthews explains. "Here we have a more reasonable schedule, good benefits and stability."

The agency is facing a retirement bubble due to aging baby boomers, Matthews says. "Within the next four to five years, we anticipate that over 50 percent of our staff will be eligible for retirement," she says. That will create advancement opportunities as well as immediate openings, she notes.

Matthews is part of the MMS human capital team, whose mission is to work on succession planning. The group is emphasizing college recruitment. It is also relying on its Student Career Employment Program (SCEP), a co-op program, and the Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP). "We often bring students through STEP and then convert them to SCEP if they work out," Matthews says. Some STEP and SCEP students work all year long, going to school and working part time. Others can only work in the summer because they are enrolled in out-of-state schools.

There is also a special program called the Cooperative Development Energy Program (CDEP), managed by Fort Valley University (Fort Valley, GA), a historically black school. The program is designed to recruit minorities and women into the private and public sectors of the energy industry.

Students spend three years at Fort Valley, and then go on to the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Georgia Tech, University of Texas at Austin, Oklahoma University, UT Pan American or Penn State, graduating with dual degrees. For the past three years MMS has hired CDEP students during the summer. MMS is a sponsor of the program along with Shell, Halliburton, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of Energy.

The agency also participates in the Federal Career Intern Program, where students are hired after graduation and trained for a two-year trial period. They segue into a permanent spot after they complete the program.

To reach minority students MMS recruiters work with a variety of diversity groups, such as NSBE, SHPE, SWE, AISES, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) and a new organization called Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology (HESTec).

MMS also hires new college grads who have not participated in its STEP or SCEP intern programs, as long as their schooling and other internship experiences qualify them for the job. There are openings for both BS grads and those with advanced degrees.

The agency is "very family-oriented," Matthews says. "I've worked at four different government agencies, but I've never seen one that operates like this."

New hires can expect good quality-of-life programs. The agency provides alternative work schedules as well as a fitness center/wellness program. Employees currently pay $18 a month, and the agency picks up the rest of the fitness center membership fee. Safety programs, new employee orientation sessions, bring-your-kids-to-work days and employee appreciation day round out the offerings. An insurance representative comes to the workplace once a month to address employees' questions or concerns about their health plans.

"MMS is just a great employment experience," Matthews says.

D/C


Minerals Management Service, Gulf of Mexico Region
Minerals Management Service, Gulf of Mexico Region
www.gomr.mms.gov

Headquarters: New Orleans, LA
Employees: 600
Operating Budget: $70 million+
Mission: Manages the nation's natural gas, oil and other mineral resources on the outer continental shelf
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