We Need To Celebrate Our Successes If We Want the Next Generation To Be Part of Our Future

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The prolonged downturn in commodity prices that started in the summer of 2014 has seen more than 350,000 people globally lose their jobs in the oil and gas industry to date. However, as BP’s mantra “lower for longer” evolves into Shell’s phrase “lower forever” and we adapt to the reality of working with an oil price around $50/bbl, signs of recovery are beginning to occur.

The US shale sector, with its relatively low operational expenditure costs and rapid rig up time, has led that revival, and it is anticipated that deepwater projects, which have also experienced cost reductions over the past 3 years, will follow in time.

However, in line with every other time this cyclical sector has come out of a downturn, the anticipated increase in activity is matched by concerns over how and where the industry will find the recruits required to fuel a resurgence, either through attracting former employees back or encouraging new, young people to join.

Attempts to attract new employees can be hampered by negative perceptions of oil and gas in some parts of the world. This challenge was reinforced recently by a poll from Ernst & Young (EY) among 1,200 consumers and 100 industry executives in the US. Held in the first quarter of this year, the US Oil and Gas Perception poll found that only 26% of Generation Z (aged 16–19) and 45% of millennials (aged 20–35) without a set career path found jobs in the industry appealing. A surprising 39% of teenagers actually ranked it as “very un­appealing.” Two out of three believed the industry causes problems rather than solves them and just 36% thought it had a positive effect on local and global communities. Furthermore, the majority from the younger generation perceived oil and gas jobs to be blue collar, dangerous, and physically demanding, and just 39% thought it provided long-term financial stability.

Such assumptions do not extend to every corner of the world (there is generally considerable interest and enthusiasm in Africa and Asia, for example), but one could argue that a perception challenge toward the benefits of working in oil and gas does exist within societies in Western Europe and North America.

As an industry, our efforts to promote the positive and exciting aspects of our job have often fallen short of convincing the wider public of the crucial role oil and gas plays in sustaining the global economy and modern life. As a result, compared with other industries, we do have to work harder to recruit for some roles. Maybe we take for granted the technical achievements that many companies make to overcome ever-more-complex challenges and that often astound the outside world when it hears of them?

We have to remind people that the days of the oil rig as a dirty and inhospitable place are no longer the norm. New-generation rigs are equipped with increased automation, digitalization, highly sophisticated control rooms, and a safe and clean environment with a near-personless rig floor. It is important they also recognize our status as a global industry that fuels the world, offering the opportunity to work and travel in many locations, providing highly rewarding long-term careers and personal development benefits.

To attract new talent, we have to reach out to it at the earliest opportunity. As an example, Expro supports the Offshore Technology Conference Houston schools activity, and, following success at Offshore Europe (OE) in 2015, we once again committed to OE 2017’s Inspire schools engagement program, working with young people aged from 13–14 and from 15–17. This program proved to be an excellent way for them to test their perceptions, learn more about oil and gas, and hear about the genuinely exciting career opportunities that exist. We were hugely impressed by the enthusiasm and willingness to engage from pupils and teachers.

With potential industry recruits having been excited and alerted to the opportunities in oil and gas, it is the responsibility of individual companies to retain that talent and to maintain continuous engagement with it. Many companies, including our own, have established comprehensive and structured development programs that give motivated individuals the opportunity to multiskill and realize their ambitions. In return, the industry looks to attract people who can enhance a culture of self-motivation, drive, and determination, with openness to adaptability and a desire for personal development.

Importantly, those in the EY poll concerned about the effect of oil and gas on communities should consider the vast strides the industry has taken over the years to improve its quality, health, safety, and environment record, and the active part the sector is playing in the transition to low- and no-carbon energy adoption. They should be encouraged to think of energy in its entirety and how they can help the oil and gas industry continue to improve its environmental record from within, rather than watching (or judging) it from the sidelines. After all, some of the technology developments in offshore wind have come from solutions deployed within oil and gas, specifically steel-jacket structures as opposed to concrete monopiles.

Far from being a dying industry, oil and gas will continue to reinvent itself, overcome ever-greater technical challenges, and carry on doing amazing things, whether that is in new areas such as frontier exploration and abandonment or in simply getting better at the things we have always done. Our significant advances in drilling technology—including extended-reach drilling depths of 12 km (Sakhalin, offshore Russia)—are just one example that perhaps we have taken the achievement for granted rather than recognized it.

In his opening address at OE 2015, Professor Brian Cox, who came from the nuclear power sector, said that he had never come across an industry that apologized for itself as much as oil and gas and that we should be proud of our achievements. He was right. It is time that we made our next generation more aware of our success if they are to be part of our future.

Alistair Geddes is executive vice president of Expro. He has 30 years of experience in the oil and gas industry, starting his career with BP and holding senior management roles at Mobil/Exxon Mobil, BG Group, and Weatherford International. Geddes joined Expro from Weatherford and, in 2012, became president for strategy, resource development, and support, where he was responsible for mergers and acquisitions; business enhancement projects; and group support functions, including supply chain, human resources, learning and development, marketing, com-munications, and information technology. Most recently, he was appointed executive vice president, responsible for product lines, technology, and business development. Geddes holds a BS degree in chemical engineering from Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh.

We Need To Celebrate Our Successes If We Want the Next Generation To Be Part of Our Future

Alistair Geddes, Executive Vice President, Expro

01 October 2017

Volume: 69 | Issue: 10


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