EY Study Decodes Oil, Gas Perception Challenges in Young People

EY Study Decodes Oil, Gas Perception Challenges in Young People
A new study by EY suggests that young people aren't attracted to careers in Big Oil.

Here’s the good news: young consumers (millennials and Gen Z) have an overall positive view of the energy industry. The bad news? They don’t want to work in oil and gas.

A 2017 study by EY, which polled 1,200 U.S. consumers ages 16 and older, revealed a few harsh realities. Namely, young people aren’t interested in working in oil and gas. In fact, 62 percent of 16-19-year-olds (Gen Z) find a career in oil and gas unappealing. Forty-four percent of millennials (aged 20-35) shared the same feeling.

Deborah Byers
Deborah Byers, US Energy Leader, EY
US Energy Leader, EY

So why is oil and gas unappealing to young people?

For starters, young people perceive “oil” less favorably than other fuel sources, such as renewables and natural gas. According to the study, just 25 percent of Gen Z have a positive perception of oil and only 40 percent have a positive perception of natural gas. However, 77 percent have a positive perception of renewable energy (wind, solar, etc.).

The study then digs a bit deeper.

Those who felt positive toward the industry credit their feelings to necessity. But that’s not good enough, said Deborah Byers, EY’s US energy leader.

“We need to get past the notion ‘I need to turn my lights on, so yes, I need energy’ … that’s not as compelling [an argument],” said Byers. “Those who felt negative toward energy were very specific as to why – it’s a polluter, fracking isn’t good, safety concerns, etc.”

Seventy-one percent of teens believe renewables are the fuels of their generation, while 56 percent believe oil and gas are the fuels of their parents’ generation. So while oil and gas works for now, young people believe cleaner energy resources will replace it in the future.

Rachel Everaard
Rachel Everaard, US Oil and Gas People Advisory Services Principal, EY
US Oil and Gas People Advisory Services Principal, EY

“Young people think future energy will be solar, wind and other renewables; therefore, they’re not looking for positions in oil and gas as a career,” said Rachel Everaard, EY’s US oil and gas people advisory services principal.

Disconnect Between Young People and Industry

The study also reveals a disconnect between how younger people view the oil and gas industry and how oil and gas execs think young people view the industry.

Just 59 percent of Gen Z believe the industry uses advanced technology, 55 percent believe the industry offers opportunities to travel and 47 percent believe the industry offers opportunities for growth (stark comparisons to how executives responded: 91 percent, 95 percent and 90 percent, respectively).

“Perception is reality. To see the dichotomy of the perceptions of the executives and perceptions of consumers is really important as you think about the future of oil and gas and the pipeline for leadership,” Everaard said.  


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Valerie is an experienced writer and editor dedicated to providing useful and relevant career news about the oil and gas industry. Email Valerie at valerie.jones@rigzone.com

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Samad Fassihi | Jul. 7, 2017
It makes sense that the younger generation is flocking to a growing industry (Solar, Wind, etc.) during a time when O&G is dwindling. Veterans of the O&G are also secretly waiting for a transition to happen (especially those who are fed up with losing their jobs during downturns. The closing gap between the price of energy from renewables vs. oil in combination with growing opportunities in developing countries will spell the end of oil. Gas for the time being seems safe as an intermediate means of supplying energy to large populations, but younger generations still oppose fracking and the associated emissions with producing gas.

Sue van Gelder | Jul. 6, 2017
Until positive changes in the industry can be made visible to our younger generations, how about hiring back the mid-to-late-career men and women who have been forced into early retirement, a never-never land where we're too young for Social Security and Medicare, but are too old for anyone to consider hiring? Maybe awareness of that scenario is one of the factors keeping the younger generations away.

Steve LeViness | Jul. 6, 2017
You cannot change the perception that the oil industry is boom or bust until you change the reality that it is boom or bust. Seems pretty obvious to me.

Randy C | Jul. 6, 2017
This article is not surprising at all. With the bad press that oil & gas get on news channels, public school curricula, and mainstream media, most people have no idea what oil & gas workers do. There is no section in a high school science book entitled Intro Petroleum Engineering or Applied Geology, etc. Just environmental progressive comments on how hydrocarbons are destroying the planet, killing out marine life in the Gulf, and polluting the air & water & land. Truth of the matter: it is absolutely amazing at how mans creative ingenuity has figured out how to extract natural resources buried 2 miles in the earth, and do it in an efficient controlled manner.

Thomas Bath | Jul. 6, 2017
This is encouraging for the 100,000 plus experienced oilfield workers waiting to find a job..... like me. Companies are actively recruiting newhires and still laying off at the same time. Maybe they will begin to re-hire. I have discouraged my children and any young people I have met from working in the oil business. It has been down more than up in my 35 years. Not a good career choice for most. Thanks for the positive article.


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