Is the O&G Industry Maximizing the Young Talent Pool?

Is the O&G Industry Maximizing the Young Talent Pool?

Graduation is approaching and a new wave of individuals, specifically more than 1.7 million students, will be entering the workforce.

With statistics pointing to the alarming reality that the post-World War II "baby boom" generation is at the retirement door, the question lingers as to whether the oil and gas industry is capitalizing on the opportunity to secure vacancies. Many at GE Oil and Gas' Offshore Technology Conference 2012 young engineers' event, Building the Talent Pool for Oil and Gas, feel this opportunity is not being seized.

GE Oil and Gas OTC 2012 - Panel Room

"There's a whole shift occurring in the employment sector," commented moderator Paul Caplan, president of Rigzone. "Last year, 66,000 positions -- in addition to vacancies -- were filled. This year so far, 11,000 positions have been created."

OTC 2012 - Rigzone President, Paul Caplan

"We need to figure out how to grow the industry in a very short time period and to ensure we have the necessary skills and mindset to move forward as the great career change takes effect," panelist and Human Resources Leader of Drilling & Surface Jeff Wooten reiterated.

According to a 2011 study conducted by Schlumberger Business Consulting, universities appear to be on track to provide the oil and gas industry with sufficient graduates in geosciences and petroleum engineering, but supply from "quality universities will remain tight."

"The kiss of death for any interview is when an interviewee asks the interviewer, 'what is your company about?'"

At the Q&A session hosted by GE Oil and Gas, a question posed to the student audience asked how the O&G industry can be more appealing to young engineers. The unanimous answer was internships and co-ops being readily available. However, not one person raised their hand when asked if any were enrolled in either. The panel was shocked.

GE Oil and Gas OTC 2012 - Vita Como

"You're never going to be better prepared then you are right now in college," remarked Vita Como, University of Houston's Cullen College of Engineering Director of Professional Development. "Get an internship or co-op before you graduate. That is so important for your career."

The panelist agreed that mentoring the young generation is a key factor in recruiting. However, is the oil and gas industry reaching out to college students? With the younger generation using social networks to search for jobs and forgoing "traditional" means, such as job fairs, there seems to be a gap in how companies are searching for young talent.

"The oil and gas industry is where I want to be," said Trenton Thompson, a student at Tuskegee University, who attended the Q&A session. "It has a lot of career development and opportunities. However, I think the transition in entering the work force isn’t so smooth. There is still a lot more that I will have to learn on my own as far as the transition is concerned."

GE Oil and Gas OTC 2012 - Trent Thompson

What many graduating students fail to realize is that it takes work and time to land a job or career of their dreams, and then fail to prepare for interviews or career fairs.

"The kiss of death for any interview is when an interviewee asks the interviewer, 'what is your company about?'" said Como, "Do your homework, be due diligent when it comes to your career."

It is estimated that 2012 will be the year for graduates. Employers responding to the National Association of Colleges and Employer's Job Outlook Spring Update survey expect to hire approximately 10.2 percent more graduates from the class of 2012 as they hired from the class of 2011. According to NACE's Job Outlook 2012 survey, the top five personal qualities/skills employers seek are:

  • Ability to work in a team
  • Verbal communication skills
  • Ability to make decisions and problem solve
  • Ability to obtain and process information
  • Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work

Furthermore, according to the April 2012 issue of NACE's Salary Survey, the median starting salary offered to a bachelor's degree candidate from the Class of 2012 is $42,569, 4.5 percent higher than the median salary in 2011

Statistically, college students graduating this year are in a great place to start a career on their terms.

"I think school has prepared me to enter the work force," said Kristine Finnerty, a student at the University of Houston. "If I score an internship, I know I will enter this job market with confidence, strength and the ability to succeed."


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Generated by readers, the comments included herein do not reflect the views and opinions of Rigzone. All comments are subject to editorial review. Off-topic, inappropriate or insulting comments will be removed.
S | May. 7, 2012
As what I call an "inbetween professional"(10 yrs experience), I got to ride the high of the gas boom and now I am riding the gas bust. Fortunately, I work for a company that is "oily". My biggest gripe is that all we complain about is how there is no talent pool. Well, there really is. Guys/Gals such as myself, are great employees and we probably have had about 3-4 managers so far. Why not push some the of the people in this experience level into some sort of managerial role? I'll tell you why. The "baby boomers" won't leave. They have no incentive to. The oil and gas companies really need to accelerate the exit of these individuals because we are really getting disgruntled with the lack of perceived opportunity. I am not age biased, but its time for some of these folks to move on. I shouldn't have a manager that is 65 years old. What could I possibly talk about with that person? Who wants to work at a nursing home? I got an engineering degree so I could be an engineer. You literally have to tell him/her about 3 times whats going on. Forget that they will ever answer a phone call at night. "That's your job." I'm okay with paying my dues but I really don't think it is going to get any better until some younger blood is in the corporate mix.

Kevin Smith | May. 4, 2012
I have to laugh at some of these comments. Many young professionals might actually have to work in the field for awhile to get some real life experience in the oilfield. Schlumberger, Halliburton, Transocean etc. hire many men and women with petroleum engineering degrees, but their fiirst job is not in an office building in Houston. They are working in the field in remote locations all over the United States and the world in cementing, wireline, measurement while drilling, etc. These field experiences are far removed from an office environment in Houston, Texas. Some of these young professionals will transition into office jobs in the future, but some will remain in the field. The younger generation needs to change their mindset, especially if they plan to enter the oil and gas industry. You might have to actually sweat and get dirty before you land your dream office job.

Anatoly POLYAKOV | May. 4, 2012
I run a recruitment agency in Russia for O&G and we have the same problems of shrinking, drying talent pools. Our orders originate mostly from Houston and Aberdeen, that means the candidates must speak fluent English and Russian. Problem is few Russians in O&G speak English and even fewer Americans or Brits in O&G speak Russian. As a result, lucrative positions like Drilling Superintendents at USD 650K/year w/o the bonus, more than USD 1mln/year with bonus, or Country Manager who runs a drilling service to a O&G major for USD 500K /year are extremely hard to close. Plenty of promising guys spoil their careers by stepping aside for a cozier job some time, their chances of getting back on the fast track, where the rates are high, are nil. Once the list of drilling positions in your CV is interrupted by such line the CV is pushed aside, no interest, our client will never consider a candidate, who is not goal oriented, for the key drilling position. The candidate must be lean and mean, in P&L (profit and loss) struggle he must be able to tip the balance in favor of P, never L, and keep the balance tilted that way all the time he is in the position.

eddy handita | May. 3, 2012
I have observed in 3 decades at workplaces (all energy cos), companies need to invite young college/ technical people to taste and experience what oil, gas, utilty companies look like. It takes years for them to build real life skills once hired- those skills they develop by themselves or them being helped from within from experienced coworkers or company training classes over time. Some would stay long life their careers and some gave up for various reasons yfolks know why. I was talking about office settings. For field/ or rigs work, therere readily available crews with technical/mechanical/manual/handy-on repairs skills. IT folks are plentiful the O&G companies can find from college/ technical-vocational students or trial-error folks who know how to run/ tinker with computers who are often better skilled than college-degree bookish folks.....

Barney | May. 3, 2012
This is an international problem, not just related to the US. The places where the real work is located are never desirable living conditions. Im a young guy with a young family and I just moved us to a remote, rural area (a town just over 2000, more than half are oild and gas people, Houston is New York by comparison) because thats where the opportunity is and Ive worked out a career path for the next ten years. Sometime in the next decade the O&G industry needs to pull their finger out and start actively promoting the places where the work actually exists and improving their remuneration packages to attract more young people. Major projects are cropping up all over the world, and the skills shortage is getting worse at an exponential rate. We just need to get to that tipping point where its so bad that projects stall and share prices dip. Then companies might be more willing to loose the purse strings to get people where they need them.

Dean | May. 3, 2012
I would tend to agree with Phils comments. I moved down to Houston about four years ago from Denver to start my first industry job. I would estimate that roughly 50% of the graduate students in my geoscience department refused to leave Colorado for a Houston-based job. I was always surprised by this because it was often to the detriment of their careers. I sort of look at Houston as a temporary phase in life, something one does to get a start in the industry. I have gained tremendously valuable professional experience and knowledge in the few years that I have been here. However, it is not a place that I would settle down or start a family. I have nothing at all against the city, but it just isnt a good fit for me personally. Commuting has a big part to do with it. The ammenities are great, but the pressure and stress of getting around can be extreme. I would estimate that around 25% of the young professionals that I know share this view.

Kurt | May. 3, 2012
Phil, those polls have actually already been conducted. Please see this article on Houston being rated the #1 place to live, work, and play by Kiplingers magazine: While Houston is no tourist destination, it is a great place to make a career and raise a family, and it offers fantastic amenities at a low cost of living compared to other cities of its size. I dont believe the city of Houston is part of the problem at all. If someone has a low opinion of Houston, it is typically because they have not had the right person show them around. The majority of Houston-transplants that I know who have taken the time to get to know the city have learned to love it.

Phil | May. 3, 2012
I have been reading the many articles lately about "the great crew change" and the oil and gas industries problems with recruiting qualified technical people. However, there are plenty of engineers and technically capable workers in this country who would love to work on the exciting projects offered by the industry - but there is just one major problem to recruiting them: they dont want to live in Houston. I think if you were to poll Americans on favorable cities to live Houston would come near the bottom. Oil and gas companies should consider opening engineering / technology centers in more desirable locations where the technically capable talent already lives (Austin, Silicon Valley, etc.) Also, if the industry can somehow create more rotational and/or telecommute positions it will find recruitment of top talent much easier.


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