By Jobert Abueva More than nine million Americans depend on the oil and natural gas industry for their jobs. But those jobs are evolving, as new technology and environmental regulation change the face of the industry and make having an educated and well-trained staff an industry imperative. Education and training shouldn't end when the person is hired, however. Nothing stays static, and in today's ever-changing energy environment that is more the case than ever. Effective training – i.e., by experienced energy professionals – can have a wide-ranging impact on the individual being trained, the company he or she works for, and the industry as a whole. Career enhancement for employees For individual employees, continuing to learn and develop their professional skills and expand their knowledge-base can open up opportunities for advancement in their companies. The oil industry, especially, is cyclical in nature, depending greatly on commodity prices and the health of the overall economy. Staying on top of best practices and growing on the job can insure that an employee will remain valuable to his or her employer. In good times, when the oil and gas industry is riding high, highly-trained employees are well-positioned to take on additional responsibilities and supervisory roles. Companies can retain their best employees For the company, it's a matter of retaining top talent. Productive employees are any company's biggest asset, and when they leave, they take with them years of experience, knowledge and skill. It doesn't matter what the economy is like or what is happening in the industry, retaining the best performers is essential for the success of a company. Keeping them motivated is a key factor in that. Money may be enough to motivate some employees, but to most employees, being appreciated and respected are just as important. Investing in employees by providing them with opportunities to improve their skill level shows them their contributions are valued. That kind of investment in human capital will pay back in increased productiveness and a solid bottom line. At the highest level, having a well-trained employee base is ultimately a competitive advantage. A competent workforce benefits the industry as a whole Finally, a well-trained workforce contributes mightily to the entire industry, whose successes and failures can have a worldwide impact. When the BP-Deepwater Horizon operation caused a massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the well-publicized incident highlighted the need for enhanced emergency management training for the energy workforce. To those who don't work in the energy industry, talk of industry training would end there, with training in emergency management and safety. But as industry professionals know, there are many other areas of competency to learn. From exploration and production through trading and risk management, marketing, logistics and distribution – there are hundreds of important job responsibilities in a wide-ranging industry. Developing professionalism at all of these levels is a win-win-win for the employee, the company, and the industry. Jobert Abueva is Director of Global Marketing and North American Sales for the Oxford Princeton Program, the world’s leading source for commercial energy and derivatives education and training.