The cyclical nature of the petroleum industry, coupled with intense focus by producers on costs in recent years, has led to multiple restructurings and employee downsizings. Each time the turmoil hit the industry, talented employees were let go. The dismal industry 20-yr environment spanning the 1980s and 1990s caused students to avoid petroleum engineering careers. As a result, the petroleum industry is now faced with a shortage of highly educated workers.
The good news is that high oil prices and improved petroleum fortunes have begun to boost petroleum engineering enrollment. Statistics for students enrolled in petroleum engineering programs in the US compiled by Dr. Lloyd R. Heinze of Texas Tech University and the Society of Petroleum Engineers are showing a decided upward trend.
Unless the petroleum industry crashes, which appears unlikely, the improved career outlook and high wages should continue to attract new students. As analysts and managements said when the hand-wringing about the shortage of employees began, give it time and money and the problem would be corrected. The new data would appear to suggest the correction is underway.
Allen Brooks is Managing Director and market analyst for Parks Paton Hoepfl & Brown, an oilfield service investment banking firm focused on M&A and capital raising. Mr. Brooks is a 35-year veteran of the oil patch as a Wall Street analyst, industry consultant and service company executive.
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