Why Graduates Shouldn’t Write Off An Oil & Gas Career

13 November 2019
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MIKE ADAMS, NORWELL EDGE CO-FOUNDER

The upstream industry is facing major challenges from rival sectors such as renewable energy and battery technology.

It has reached a tipping point where not only must we innovate to extend our time at the top of the energy market as new technologies mature and lower energy prices become the norm, but we need to re-examine our culture if we are to attract the talent needed to drive the industry forward.

I truly believe that we are facing a major identity and culture crisis. University graduates dismiss the oil and gas industry as a has-been. They don’t see it as a beacon of innovation, progress or inclusion.

Rising stars are attracted by what they see as a more positive, welcoming and sustainable career in tech and renewables. Graduates can’t be fooled by a greenwash and slick marketing – there is a clear trend towards recruitment by companies whose cultures are seen as more ethical and sustainable.

The oil and gas sector’s corporate culture is often out of step with this, most evident during the past three years of low oil prices. Unless there is a change of approach, these industries may overtake us much sooner than expected. 

Graduates and those considering their career options have seen the pressures the workforce has been put under during this most recent downturn. Increased workloads, reduced investment in new technology and R&D, little to no training, mass redundancies. None of this makes for an attractive future employer.

It is unavoidable that oil and gas is a commodity-driven and cyclical market. We are routinely affected by oil price cycles which, as the industry continues to evolve and grow into new markets, becomes ever more susceptible to diverse and unpredictable global factors.

These cycles have largely defined the industry in the 21st century with major periods of recession and layoffs determining the narrative. Added to by high profile incidents such as Deepwater Horizon and a general trend toward decarbonisation, the industry is fast approaching a point of no return in the eyes of younger generations. 

But this does not have to be the case.

The oil and gas sector still drives the global economy, builds industry in emerging nations, contributes valuable materials and fuels to almost every household on earth and continues to undertake immense feats of engineering to do so.

The technological innovations driven by our sector in the past have been significant, and much more of this innovation is required, both now and in the future. While more certainly needs to be done to better promote our industry around the world, the greatest changes need to come from within the largest organisations.

We must do more to create a sustainable model that better withstands industry cycles, looks to value, retain and develop long-term workforces and promotes diversity and inclusion as is expected by new generations. Providing continuous training for all, not just those deemed to be ‘business critical’ at any given point will play a central role in achieving this.

If we can do this, then the message that oil and gas offers an exciting and sustainable future will start to shine through.