Tackling the Skills Shortage Challenge in the Oil, Gas Industry

Cullen said the current pipeline of STEM-capable students (those who are educated in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is inadequate to meet the needs of the industry. One solution would be for oil and gas employers to attract those who traditionally have underrepresentation in STEM fields – namely women and minorities.

“There is a need to develop more effective programs targeting young students in the minority sectors. We need to look at the pathways provided by community colleges and expand the partnerships between the industry and academia,” Cullen addressed the audience. “We’ve got to have the engagement of industry experts. They are the people who will be hiring these students. If they are saying, ‘we’re not getting what we need,’ maybe they ought to get involved.”

Taking an Active Role: School & Industry Collaboration

So who’s tasked with developing the skilled candidate pool the industry is seeking? Experts say it should be a collaborative effort between institutions of higher education and the oil and gas industry itself.

Cullen said regional meetings should be convened and academia and the industry should start a dialogue addressing specific industry needs.

“We also need to strengthen the connections between four-year universities and community colleges,” she said. “Community colleges often provide training and they’re good at that. We also found that community colleges can be much more nimble as far as adding classes. They can put a class online in a few weeks whereas a university could not.”

Cullen also mentioned a benefit from community college and industry collaboration is a pipeline for graduates to remain and work locally in the oil and gas industry.

U.S. Representative Pete Olson, one of the panelists at UH Energy’s symposium, mentioned some community colleges in his district that were getting it right with collaborations within the oil and gas industry: San Jacinto Community College in Pasadena, TX and Alvin Community College in Pearland, TX. He praised both for offering valuable job training.


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