Elk Petroleum partners with Whitehorse High
By David Boyle
A local company is working with Whitehorse High School to provide opportunities for youth in the Montezuma Creek area.
Elk Petroleum operates the greater Aneth oil field. The oil field in the southeast portion of Utah and the northern portion of the Navajo Nation has been producing oil since 1956.
Elk Petroleum took over operations of the fields in 2018, with Ray Ambrose taking over as CEO of the company in 2020. Ambrose joined the Red Rock morning show on May 3 along with Whitehorse High Principal Kim Schaefer to discuss the company and high schools’ work together through Facilitators of Innovative Education, Leadership Development & Sustainability or FIELDS.
Elk Petroleum and Whitehorse High have partnered together to offer vocational technical classes with the high school as well as paid internships during the school year and over the summer.
Principal Schaefer had high praise for the partnership saying it’s one of the best things she’s seen on the Utah strip of the Navajo Nation. Noting that the program provides education and training in the school with Elk Petroleum then offering internships and work opportunities.
“It’s very motivating to scholars to learn something in the school building, and then go out into the field and directly apply their learning to a real job site. Elk Petroleum takes it a step further, they have some scholarships for engineers, people who want to go into engineering so that they can go and get their degrees. They do paid internships, and sometimes that means that they are hiring one of our scholars for a summer internship, and then that scholar could be trained on the job or be eligible for future training.”
Schaefer added when a young person sees information and skills learned in the classroom that can be applied outside of school that increases the excitement for learning. She noted she’s seen several Senior students enter their senior year with plans to coast but be energized by the Electrical Mechanical Technology (EMT) program.
“It’s really opening their potential, and it’s showing them that the opportunities are true. It’s not just lip service. Their parents aren’t just saying there are opportunities. The school isn’t just saying there are opportunities. The community is not saying there are opportunities. Elk Petroleum and the school with FIELDS are partnering to say those opportunities everyone has been talking about is the reality in this EMT field. You really can use your high school education to find work and future training.”
Schaefer and Ambrose shared that those opportunities have even brought students to higher education opportunities with scholarships and the opportunity of work when they return.
Ambrose says the company knows they are intertwined with the greater Aneth community with the youth in the community’s family often tied to Elk Petroleum.
“Either they worked directly for Elk or they have a sister or a brother or uncle that works for Elk, so it is an important part of the community. Just being able to have folks come in and understand what we do, and being able to contribute is a big deal. We have about 80 or so individuals that work at Elk that are members of the Navajo Nation,”
Ambrose says they prefer to hire local people, and their work with the EMT program at Whitehorse High is helping to keep people in the community.
“One of those big ways we support the local community is through jobs, but at Elk we do have an aging workforce. So we need new people, younger people, with the skills to come in and contribute. That is one of the important aspects that we try to foster with the FIELDS program and Whitehorse high school. It’s giving folks and young adults the opportunity that’s right there in their backyard to help support the local community through really good jobs. I mean these are some really really good jobs. I consider them probably some of the best across the Navajo Nation.”
Ambrose added the company has recently increased the funding provided to students on the Navajo Nation as they try and support education in the community.