The next wave of oil and gas engineers shared some of the spotlight at this year's Offshore Technology Conference in Houston, when GE Oil & Gas highlighted its latest student survey results during the GE Oil & Gas Young Engineer Panel.
To help in the company's recruiting efforts, the survey asked young engineers at local universities what they were looking for in their careers and why they'd be interested in working in the oil and gas industry. Instead of just revealing the results, the company assembled a group of five panelists to field questions from students in the audience.
Rigzone President Paul Caplan moderated, and the dialogue began with a focus on the number of women securing jobs in the oil and gas industry. One student noted that it seemed many of the jobs held by women in oil and gas were in business development or human resources—not technical engineering.
"First, make sure you are proud to be in this discipline," said Brandy Guidry, drilling and surface director and material productivity leader at GE Oil & Gas. "Whether you're a male or female, it's a challenging discipline, but don't be afraid to showcase your talent. Also, when you're doing internships be sure you reach out to those women in technical fields. They can offer good advice and connect you with other women in industry."
Unfortunately, people often assume that only recruiters recruit engineers, added Vita Como, executive director of professional development at the University of Houston's Cullen College of Engineering Career Center.
"When people come to recruit for an engineering position at the career center or when these people are manning the booths at career fairs, it's assumed that they are recruiters. However, often these people are engineers themselves. It's part of their community service through their jobs."
As each wave of graduates gets closer to the transition from school to the workforce, it's natural for concerns to surface about finding the "right" first step in a new career. One student in the audience shared that he wasn't 100 percent sure he'd like his first career choice.
This is exactly why Aaron Shaw, services engineer and GE Oil & Gas Edison Engineering Development Program (EEDP) graduate, joined EEDP. It is an intensive two- to three-year entry-level program designed to accelerate participants' professional development through technical training and a variety of business-critical assignments. It also consists of three or more rotational assignments driven by real GE business priorities.
"I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do. But with GE there was no limit to the things I could explore. You get to experience different engineering challenges and you can leverage the different divisions. As you move through these experiences there's a great chance that you'll encounter a role that will fit perfectly."
According to the survey question that asked why students were studying engineering, 41 percent indicated that they like to solve complex problems; the next largest response was "interested in a global career" at 22 percent.
"It's great that students are looking to tackle big problems, as that's the perspective GE Oil & Gas is looking for," said Jeffery Wooten, human resources leader for the company's drilling and surface division.
"Whether it's creating the new BOP, MRI, turbine, or even a new way of communicating with our machines out in the field, it's what we want to continue doing."
Last year the type of engineering most respondents were studying was mechanical, but this year was more of a split. Those studying petroleum totaled 24 percent, mechanical 22 percent, electrical 18 percent, and civil, 12 percent. The "other" category represented 23 percent.
"It's great because we need more people with a background in electrical or petroleum engineering," Wooten said.
In looking at important factors that mattered to students deciding a career path, stable, long-term industry topped the list at 21 percent, technology and innovation totaled 18 percent and training and development and competitive salary were each 17 percent.
"The notion of stable, long-term industry really jumped this year. In reading the reports on millennials, it's typical for them to jump from place to place, saving the world in one place and then another, so it's very interesting to see interest in something more stable."
Some members of the audience noted that the definition of stability may be what's different this year. As the oil and gas industry has weathered several highs and lows over the years, "stability" is now tied to the industry's ongoing growth potential as a whole instead of a career with one specific company, in some students' view.
"It's an industry that has volatility, but when you look at the business overall, it still keeps growing," said Federico Noera, global engineering leader, GE Oil & Gas Subsea Systems. "At the end of the day it's driven by energy demand. From an engineering perspective, there are many complex reservoirs to be explored going forward."
Also, when a company has multiple business units, as GE does, it's very possible to build a robust resume and skills without having to leave the company.
"Within GE you have the opportunity to face different engineering challenges according to your skill set, your career expectations and the company value that is going to come out of your work," Noera continued.
What's drawing students to the oil and gas industry in general? According to the survey, top reasons were career growth (30 percent), competitive salary (21 percent) and scale of impact (15 percent). On the other hand, concerns such as the industry impact on the environment (26 percent) and sustainability (24 percent) were giving some respondents pause.
"In the end, you are each responsible for your career, so take the time to really plan it out—what you want to do, where you want to go and how you want to accomplish things," said Frank Adamek, executive chief engineer, drilling and production, GE Oil & Gas. "It's your career, so make the most of it."
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