Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

English Rhetoric and Composition, PhD

Committee Chair

Williams, Bronwyn

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Schneider, Stephen

Committee Member

Boehm, Beth

Committee Member

Ridley, Glynis

Committee Member

Pennell, Michael

Author's Keywords

literacy sponsorship; oilfield; labor market intermediary; job advertisements; roughneck; reading and writing


This research is an investigation of workforce recruitment language as the “leading edge” of literacy sponsorship as it pertains to blue-collar rig and service workers in the South Texas oilfields. Using Deborah Brandt’s Literacy in American Lives as a framework for this study, I conducted interviews with 10 rig and service workers and labor market intermediary administrators about the perceptions and expectations of literacy use in oilfield work. My inquiry begins by first learning about workers’ experiences with recruitment into the industry. Then, to understand more about how the industry communicates literacy expectations to these workers, I look at recruitment rhetoric via a rhetorical analysis of job advertisements for oil and gas positions. Finally, I examine the role of job market labor market intermediaries (LMIs), or temp agencies, and the role they play in potential oil and gas workers coming into the industry. The results of this research are what make up my dissertation “Brokering Words and Work: Complexities of Literacy Sponsorship in the Oilfields of South Texas” in which I argue that literacy use is influenced by two significant factors. The first factor is the cultural and technological shift in the industry as it pertains to the 2012-13 hydraulic fracturing boom in the Eagle Ford Shale region of South Texas. This particular boom aligns with the Great Crew Change, the mass retirement of workers from oil and gas positions, creating a need for more workers at all levels of the industry, including workers with advanced technical skills and academic education. To recruit for these new literacies and skills, the industry communicates needs through job advertisements, which, I argue, are as much gatekeepers as they are matchmakers between work and workers for reasons related to access. The second factor is the normalizing of literacy-based processes by the in industry, especially as it pertains to workforce materials, such as reading and interpreting job advertisements, filling out job applications, and resume work. As the culture shifts from networking to the utilization of online job applications and materials, workers and/or applicants not familiar with these genres need assistance navigating the literacy expectations required to use them. To assist in labor market education practices, the industry utilizes the services of labor market intermediaries, which, I argue, are used to bridge literacy and accessibility gaps between worker and industry.