What Will Happen to Experienced Oil, Gas Workers?

What Will Happen to Experienced Oil, Gas Workers?
Rigzone's worker exodus survey finds that highly experienced oil and gas professionals are struggling with whether or not to return to the industry in the wake of a new normal.

Sergio Garcia said his oil and gas background helped him in his current role as an environmental health and safety manager for General Dynamics, an aerospace and defense company.

After being laid off from Freeport McMoRan Oil and Gas in April 2016, Garcia was able to leverage his skillset and graduate degree in environmental management to a land a position with General Dynamics.

“In the oil patch, we deal with all kinds of regulators and regulations, so we are better prepared to face the challenges when we cross over to other industries, in my case, going from oil exploration to manufacturing of satellite components,” he told Rigzone.

And Garcia’s not looking to return to oil and gas – ever.

“Being in the position of waking up to find out that you will not get a bonus or raise because the price of a barrel of oil has tanked is bullshit and does not make for stability for any employee, company or countries,” he said. “Until they come up with a different market paradigm to address this, there will always be volatility.”

Something that isn’t going anywhere in oil and gas is the shift toward automation, and more experienced workers who want to continue in the industry would do well to continue to adopt more skills in this arena.

“As long as we have workers willing to learn and put their skills to use, they will be hired,” said Garcia. “There is no room for complacency; workers need to adjust to change.”

Mayor shared a similar sentiment.

“The key for more experienced resources is to ramp up their skills in technology – demonstrate tech skills and tech-savvy,” she said. “The oil and gas industry will require greater technological skills, but will still need deep expertise in its processes and equipment. More experienced resources will be well-equipped to compete if they couple their industry depth of expertise with technology know-how to continue to succeed in the ‘new normal.’”

Methodology: Rigzone conducted the worker exodus survey using online survey tool SurveyMonkey. The survey was executed via email to Rigzone’s member database as well as the company’s social media platforms from May 11 through May 18 and garnered more than 1,500 responses from nearly 100 countries.


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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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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.
Shane Clark | Aug. 21, 2017
I have recently been seeing more advertisements for offshore jobs in the GOM, unfortunately the Companies and the Goverment have turned their back on the US Offshore workers in favor of cheaper foriegn labor, giving the jobs to the foreigners. I work in the Offshore Construction/PipeLay/OSV Market, and seeing that most of the job postings for work in the US Gulf of Mexico is being advertised as searching for persons holding current B1 type visa. For example V Ships recently had advertisement they are hiring all positions for the Goliath that has job in USA but only targeting foreign crew. Sad to see that the visa system is being abused and the oil companies selling us out, especially while so many fellow offshore brothers are struggling to find work!

Ronald Jackson | Aug. 20, 2017
I have had a good 28 year career working onshore /offshore in the oil and gas industry, during that period I have been requested to educate or survey local blasting painting work force in different countries. My discipline is Painting/Insulation inspector, after each group were proficient to carry out the work, or a local Inspector was hired at fraction of my salary, my contract was terminated, I am at a mature age, but still hold a valid CSWP/BGAS Grade 2 painting inspection certificate and am willing to take a new contract. There is always a need for experience, it can be short sighted and costly when premature failures occur.

Nick Edwards | Aug. 19, 2017
We can bump our gums all we want about our feelings of being short changed for someone cheaper or replaced by an individual with ridiculously less experience than yourself but the reality is that the oil companies keep making the same damm mistake with every downturn and they have always gone for low cost / youth over experience. They aint going to change now! Its only when you have an old head working alongside a new starter that the obvious gap in productivity and optimisation becomes painfully obvious for all to see. However if the inexperience goes all the way up the line on an operation run with a bunch of second class players right across the team,the bar is automatically set low and this then becomes the new norm, mumbling their way through all the issues...,these guys then become the next generation of people to start bitching when the next down cycle comes along.Circles within circles, the cycle goes on and on adinfinitum. Its just the way it is....,face it ..,oil as a commodity is a dying industry and I feel that within the next 100 years or so it will be looked back on as we do now of steam and coal as fuel sources.Nothing lasts forever unfortunately.

Alan mchale | Aug. 19, 2017
Having been offshore the past 15 years I found myself redundant. I was always careful financially. But funds only last so long. Then certification runs out. The price of recertification never dropped!! Therefore I am finding that now I cannot afford a minimum of 800 BOSET PLUS 1000 re cert crane ticket 200 medical, and that is the very basic So Im now in a bind working construction instead of the job I love.

rather not say | Aug. 18, 2017
The real reason for layoffs is to pass corporate risk from the shareholders to employees. If the shareholders risk increase they respond by lowering the price they will pay for stock which directly impacts the CEOs bottom line because most of his pay comes from stock options. If the risk is transferred to the bond holder then he demands higher interest rates lowering corporate profits which lower stock prices which reduces the value of the CEOs options. But if they pass the risk to the employee in the form of layoffs the employee can do nothing that has any direct impact on corporation. In fact stock prices will either go up or not drop as much because stock analysis do realize that labor is less than 10% of operating cost in an integrated oil company and have no idea of the importance of experience and knowledge in the oil industry in keeping operating and capital cost under control. The CEO only has to be no worse than the others and is at the end of his career so he is usually cashed out when the cost of layoffs hit home a few years down the road. The industry management was planning to replace the layoff employees who left the industry with far cheaper H1Bs in the future when the shareholders began to demand they actual doing something to grow the company. However when the voters elected Donald Trump because he said he would drastically cut H1Bs this is creating a huge potential problem in the near future. This is why Trumps support among industry CEOs which you would think would be very high because of his pro energy growth policies is waning fast.

USARSUPTHAI | Aug. 18, 2017
Tom Carrens has a very good understanding how this gig works. The oil business has, and still is, creating their own demise. My advice to anybody that is thinking about entering this work should count on a lay off every 3-5 years. One way that might reassure longevity is to play golf. If there is one aspect of this industry is that if you play golf, meet the right people you just might survive a down turn. I know this sounds simplistic, however, over the 37 years in oil and gas I have seen so many people advance them selves by playing golf and meeting the right people. It used to be , when I broke out, it was the older experienced hands that were promoted to tech positions to assist those new guys in the field. Not so anymore, it has totally been turned the other way , a graduate with their new degree are placed in tech and supervision positions to supervise the 20-30 year hands. Bottom line advice for anybody thinking of this type of work is this; the nearest thing to the oil business should be pumping gas in your car, that was my advice to my grandson anyway.

Pete Tarver | Aug. 18, 2017
I agree with Tom Carrens comments. The oil & gas industry seems to be scared to rely on experience as a valid qualification. Since the Big Spill employers are requiring degreed engineers to fill positions that should be filled by experienced managers and supervisors who know what it takes simply because they have been there and done that. An oil or gas well is a machine and the mechanics of the machine can change from well to well. Its like requiring an auto mechanic to have a college degree because there have been auto accidents.

Tom Carrens | Aug. 17, 2017
I think Majors comments are off base. The real reason that the oil industry is is losing older workers is age, experience and pay discrimination. While this is technically unlawful, most companies have figured numerous ways around it. Companies do not want older, experienced and technologically astute drilling or completion superintendents and managers because company HR personnel and recruiters have developed programs that automatically kick out a resume no matter how good it is if it sees experience levels which is easily related to age, time frames or a particular phrase or words not used or previous compensation and benefits are higher than what is currently being offered. HR and recruiters also have another way they deter older workers and that is by deciding that they can not relate to younger workers or that they would not be happy working for someone younger ( how this is done without speaking to an applicant I dont know). Companies have also directed their HR and recruiters to include that prospects must be or have an engineering background but that is such a false assumption and requirement. Most engineers do not have the practical knowledge or field experience that it takes to the run the many facets of day to day operations or simply do not want to. Most engineers do not have a plan B or C or D ready in case an issue occurs, instead they rely heavily on outside sources to tell them what to do which is can be a life saver or extremely expensive because the source they are relying on may or may not have the experience either with a particular issue but can sell the company a plan that sounds good. Another issue today is that younger employees dont have the same work ethic as older persons do but they want the same or higher title and compensation. The oilfield IS NOT a 5 day, 40 hrs per week job, it is a 24 hr a day, 365 days a year job! While it is very true that todays wells are more complex, require sound and new engineering ideas, techniques and equipment, it is also true field operations have not been automated such that say a 20 stage 10,000 horizontal frac job can be accomplished by sitting in a command office and punching button, It still takes numerous people and service companies to accomplish. Older experienced managers and superintendents can logically organize the project, provide a plan of action, execute the plan and have contingencies in place in case something arises. Good managers and superintendents are able to understand the project from an engineering, economic and practical perspective and are able to convey or help convey those ideas to others They also provide continuity between departments, upper management, field personnel and work to ensure that all of these functions are done safely, within regulatory rules and regulations, accepted industry standards and guidelines. Younger workers are deterred from entering the oil industry because of its unstable nature, they actually have to work, live where the work is which a lot of times are in areas that are small, rural, hot or cold, windy and dusty, the work is dirty, the hours can be long and, they far from family and friends. One can spin the oil industry story numerous ways but this is the way it really is and there ARE numerous talented individuals that have been laid off that are wanting to continue to work, be a contributor, to teach and guide younger people in pursuit of their chosen field and dream. The oil industry is not going away anytime soon, nor are the practical and common sense approaches to getting the job done.

bshaef | Aug. 17, 2017
I started in the industry in 1963 and my first layoff came in 1986 when the company was sold. I got one crummy year of severance. After that I consulted and/or was an employee of several unsuccessful companies but I picked up another five years of severance checks in the process. In 2005 I fell into a company that accidentally found out it was sitting on a huge shale gas play. I made more money between 2007 and 2013 (when I retired) from a combination of stock options and an awesome 401K and a 20% bonus deal. In 2005 was savings were in the 5 figure range, now they are in the low 7 figure range. Three cheers for shale and Aubrey McLendon. He did a fabulous job publicizing his shale plays which include ours. Ill make no bones about it, I am luckier than smart because I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.


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