Gen X Oil Workers in Danger of 'Burning Out'

Gen X Oil Workers in Danger of 'Burning Out'

Generation X oil and gas industry workers are in danger of burning out due to a combination of increasingly few mid-career professionals working in oil and gas, family commitments and an ever-increasing workload connected to an expanding energy sector, according to a senior member of the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Taking part in the Offshore Europe 2013 conference’s final keynote session, Steve Walker – Head of Strategic Inventions for the HSE’s Energy Division – said: "We [know] there’s not enough of Generation X and yet they are extremely valuable, so I think there's a real danger of the burn out of Generation X."

Walker said that while Generation X employees aged between their early 40s and early 50s are seeking better work/life balance and roles mentoring younger workers, the current increase in activity in the oil and gas sector suggests they are likely to be working harder than ever, directly involved in carrying out projects.

"I think there’s a real tension there and it's very easy to speak theoretically about how we want look at and nurture Generation X [workers] but I do wonder whether, just because of the pace of the industry, there is a real danger we are overusing them," he added.

Also taking part in the keynote session – titled "Oil and Gas Skills – Your Future Today" – were Sara Caplan, a partner at business consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Ferdinand von Prondzynski, principal of Robert Gordon University.

Caplan noted:

"People in the middle [of their careers] tend to suffer from not an awful lot of investment because they are steady people, they know their job and are really good at it. What we find is that people don't tend to move on for more money unless something has made them think about money. And the thing that tends to make them think about money is dissatisfaction in a job and that might be because no-one is investing in their development and they don’t feel valued anymore."

Prof von Prondzynski added that educational and training organizations like the recently-formed Oil & Gas Academy of Scotland (OGAS) have a role to play in helping Generation X.

"OGAS, along with the institutions that make up OGAS will be much better at addressing that generation of employees," he said.

"Previously, universities and colleges were used to dealing with school leavers, taking them through an educational program and then saying goodbye to them. Now, we are used to engaging with people who are later on in their careers… to develop them at that point and also help the companies concerned."

A former engineer, Jon is an award-winning editor who has covered the technology, engineering and energy sectors since the mid-1990s. Email Jon at


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Lynn | Sep. 13, 2013
I think its sad that the industry has gotten alot of things wrong. I am a female in my early 30s. I trained as a geologist and started my career offshore doing mudlogging then data enginerring for 3 years. I went back to university and got an MSc in International Oil and Gas management. I graduated in 2008 right after the oil price crossed $100 bbl and then crashed followed immediately by the financial crisis. I applied to the graduate programmes of the major operators but had no luck there. I was often told I had too much experience to be considered for a graduate role. I had 3 years technical experience and was seeking to get commecial experience- go figure. Peole ingeneral looked at my CV and did not know what to do. Eventually I got a job with a consultancy as an analyst and have never been able to move on. You see, Im from a 3rd world country so getting a work permit for most countries with an industry is difficult if youre not hired by one of the well known companies off the bat. I interviewed for a job with BP North Sea in 2011 and got the job right away for a commercial analyst role on their largest North Sea project. Unfortunately their HR department did not check my CV properly which stated I needed sponsorship for a work visa for the UK. They immediately back peddled on the offer and even after all my persistence they dropped my case like a hot potato. The industry keeps on hammering the same old themes: shortage of skilled labour, lack of women etc. But the industry is not really lobbying the governments of the countries they operate in to make changes to labour laws etc. Ive been struggling for 5 years to get my foot back in the door. Im losing the desire to continue with that battle. Life is too short.

Phil | Sep. 6, 2013
Field rates for this age group have remained stagnant for nearly 20 years forcing most engineers and techs in this age group to be away from home for 200+ days a year, leading to failed marriages (more payments) and generally stretching their time and resource. O&G operations, unless it is new technology generally have undervalued the labour resource to the point where the resource is giving the industry a dwindling return.

John Black | Sep. 6, 2013
I think the "oilpatch" has lost the attraction or sense of adventure that existed in the 60s & 70s. The lifetime commitment through the good & bad times doesnt exist anymore.

Mike Mansilla | Sep. 6, 2013
I am a similar position. I am not really looking to move for more money. Time off and moving into a mentor type position are the important parts when I was 25 yrs old ot was all about money. 20 years later priorities have changed. In my field there is a large drop off in experienced people.


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