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The Generation Z Factor

How can we attract the next generation into the oil and gas industry?
This article appeared in Vol. 16, No. 3 - 2019

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The Generation Z Factor

© Olena Golubova/Dreamstime.com. In my early youth joining the oil and gas industry was very much a slick career choice (pardon the expression). Two acquaintances joined two different super majors and they seemed set for life – front line drama, travel, promotion and a pension to die for. What about today’s click generation? How are they weighing up a career in oil and gas when faced with the strictures of the climate change lobby and the idea, however misplaced, that fossil fuel-based energy is living on borrowed time.

According to a recent poll of US consumers and oil and gas executives by the consultancy firm EY there are plenty of workforce challenges facing the sector. In the short term at least – certainly in the first half of 2019 – jobs may be on the rise thanks to a more bullish oil price but the EY poll suggests that young people are more sceptical than ever about making a career in the sector.

The survey quizzed millennials, those in the 20–35 ages group and the so called ‘Generation Z’, the 16–19 year olds, many of whom are still looking at a higher education choice which leads to a worthwhile career. Graduates in disciplines such as geology, engineering and science subjects should be well qualified to walk into one of the big oil and gas companies when they are hiring. By the same token they could go and work for an NGO or become environmental consultants.

The point which keeps getting aired at industry conferences is that young people want job satisfaction and a reasonable reward but they are also becoming more idealistic about what they do. “Perhaps most concerning,” notes the EY survey, is that “more than two out of every three teens believe the oil and gas industry causes problems rather than solves them.” And teens and millennials are far less likely than older consumers to agree that oil and gas are “good for society”.

So, the message that a career in oil and gas is not only technically (and intellectually) challenging but also matters in a modern, forward-looking sort of way needs to come across loud and clear. So too, as many of the majors are now proclaiming, is the notion that fossil fuels continue to play an important role in lifting people out of poverty. The lion’s share of future growth comes from the emerging economies, and the need for cost-effective, available sources of energy will keep oil and gas motoring for many years to come.

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