Poll: Oil & Gas Faces Perception Problem Among Young Americans

While of 51% adults would be happy if their child chose a career in oil and gas, only 26% of Generation Z and 45% of millennials without a set career path find industry jobs appealing, according to Ernst & Young’s (EY) U.S. Oil and Gas Perception poll. A majority from the younger generation also perceive oil and gas jobs as blue-collar, dangerous and physically demanding.

“Oil and gas companies need smart, capable employees now and for as long as the industry exists,” said Deborah Byers, EY’s U.S. Energy leader. “But younger generations’ perceptions of oil and gas are leading them elsewhere. There are a couple of contributing factors to these views.”

She said chief among the problems are a disconnect between what oil and gas executives think young people want from a career and what they actually want, a lack of awareness about the industry on the part of young people and a substantial gender gap. “

Young women’s views on jobs in oil and gas are particularly concerning,” Byers said.

In fact, the industry’s lack of job appeal among young people is largely driven by the degree to which young women find oil and gas jobs unappealing. According to the survey, only 24% of women 16-35 find industry jobs appealing while 54% of men in the same age range find them appealing.

Interestingly, younger generations actually hold fairly traditional career priorities. When asked which three considerations are the most important in selecting a future career, both Millennials and Generation Z, prioritized salary (56%), good work-life balance (49%), job stability (37%) and on-the-job happiness (37%).

In contrast, oil and gas executives expected the leading careers drivers for young people to be salary (72%), technology (43%), good work-life balance (38%), and the opportunity to try new roles (28%). They overestimated the allure of technology for young people, while undervaluing work-life balance and stability. EY said.

Further, executives do not seem convinced of the industry’s ability to deliver on some of the leading factors that attract young people to a career. While 92% of executives agreed salary is a strength of the industry, 37% said good work-life balance is an industry weakness and 61% said job stability is an industry weakness.

“There are a number of changes companies can make to improve their ability to recruit and retain quality employees, but overcoming this perception challenge will require much more substantial transformation,” said Rachel Everaard, Eys U.S. Oil & Gas People Advisory Services Principal. “Companies need to embrace the workforce of the future and evolve to better serve current and prospective employees.”

Using Technology

Technology will play a crucial role in revolutionizing the industry’s workforce – affecting both the number and type of employees needed.

For example, companies can implement digital automation to do a range of repetitive tasks that currently require staff time. In turn, they can quickly and inexpensively adjust to a smaller hiring pool by focusing their recruiting efforts on qualified individuals for key roles.

Oil and gas executives are already adapting to this mindset. Of the executives surveyed, 81% said the industry will need to develop an educated, highly skilled workforce over the next ten years, in contrast to a mass pool of employees.

“Each company’s workforce and their strategy to efficiently deploy that workforce is a differentiator,” Byers said. “At a time when energy abundance threatens a permanent oversupply and low prices, the oil and gas industry has a call to action to solve this perception problem for the sake of their future workforce and their success.”

EY conducted the nationwide poll of more than 1,200 consumers and 100 industry executives in the United States during in the first quarter of 2017. A total of 1,204 American consumers aged 16 and older were interviewed online nationwide, including: 1,004 people 19 and older and 200 aged 16-18. A total of 109 oil and gas executives based in North America were interviewed online.

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