Is the U.S. Prepared for the Great Crew Change in Oil & Gas Industry?

Is the U.S. Prepared for the Great Crew Change in Oil & Gas Industry?

The oil and gas industry was largely built by two generations, the civics and the baby boomers. While many boomers are still in the workplace, they are on their way out. Meanwhile, civics have vastly already retired. The splendor these generations remember, the fast cash and readily available opportunities to get rich quick are already a thing of the past.

However, after working in oil and gas for as long as I can remember, I have a very positive outlook for the future. The Great Crew change is already here. Millennials are in, generation X is in the management positions that traditionally belonged to baby boomers, and in spite of the price drops in our industry, technology presents endless opportunities for those ready to seize them.

When oil went from $100 a barrel to $50-60 in half a year, many top oil companies laid off thousands of employees. In terms of job security, this sent a very negative message to young engineers and other professionals who might be preparing to join the workforce and fill in the gaps left by the retiring generations.

Our industry needs those tech savvy recent graduates. There is much room for improvement in the way many oil and gas companies do things. Some research and development departments, for example, are still functioning in a very similar way to 10 years ago. And we have not even begun to tap into the potential of applying nanotechnology to exploration and oil extraction.

But we also need the experience of the baby boomers who are getting ready to retire. Technology and academic knowledge are not enough to run an offshore well efficiently. Experience is key. Therefore, we must not only attract millennials into the industry, but also find a way to create a virtuous flow of knowledge and ideas between older engineers and new hires.

Transformation does not have to be a negative thing when it is rightfully embraced. One of the problems of the Great Crew Change is that the values of millennials, generation X, and boomers are so diametrically opposed. Personally, I see generation X playing a key role in the transition, bridging the gap between the often antagonistic millennials and boomers.

If we embrace the Great Crew Change and learn to flow with it, our industry will benefit from millennials’ ideas about applied technology and environmentally sound practices. In order to attract and keep millennials in an industry that sometimes has a hard time shaking off its bad reputation, we must create interesting work environments for them. They need to feel challenged and empowered.

Millennials do not take a military line of command well. They are used to horizontal management styles. They have learned to function like this at both home and school. If we want our industry to thrive in the new environment, with $50 oil barrels and abundant opportunities for gas extraction all over the world, organizations need to adapt.

The skills shortage can also be seen as an opportunity to capture talent and hone it, in order to take our industry to the next level. One of the keys to the success of that process is preparing well for the handoff. An efficient mentoring system is one of the things millennials appreciate the most when it comes to the passing on of knowledge and experience, and perhaps, only the companies that have such a system in place will thrive in the coming decades.

Oil and gas are still excellent business for investors too. They simply need to optimize investments and make use of the technology available today to maximize potential profits from exploration. Naturally, geopolitical circumstances also play an important role, but I will leave that for another blog, because the matter is as vast as it is fascinating.

All things considered, if the Great Crew Change is handled well, the influx of millennial views, attitudes, and skills will be an extremely positive thing in our industry. But there is abundant work to do to attract millennials, train them properly, and ensure secure and attractive positions for them. The world will keep changing, and the superior adaptiveness of the younger generations is poised to become one of the oil and gas industry's greatest assets.

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Attorney Jimmy Vallee is an energy Mergers & Acquisitions lawyer, oil and gas industry commentator, and frequent resource for media outlets including USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Oil & Gas Monitor and others. His new book, Giant Shifts: Energy Trends Reshaping America’s Future, released in May, 2017 hit #1 in two Amazon categories the week of its launch. Connect with Jimmy at [hidden email]  “Noted Energy Futurist” – Mensa AG 2016


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