A seismic cultural shift is under way that will make it increasingly difficult for oil and gas companies to attract and retain knowledgeable, highly skilled workers — undermining the industry’s ability to succeed in a rapidly changing world.
This shift is driven by the attitudes and perceptions of younger generations — some already in the workforce, others rapidly approaching that day — toward the industry and its impact on both the environment and society in general.
EY recently conducted an extensive nationwide consumer survey that provides an in-depth look at how Americans view oil and gas and the companies that produce them. The survey targeted people of all ages, including 16- to 19-year-old members of Generation Z, and millennials between the approximate ages of 20 and 35. We also asked many of the same questions to oil and gas executives, to see how their opinions matched those of consumers’.
The survey results show that younger generations’ attitudes toward oil and gas, especially from a career perspective, present a significant obstacle. These generations question the longevity of the industry, as they view natural gas and oil as their parents’ fuels. Further, they primarily see the industry’s careers as unstable, blue-collar, difficult, dangerous and harmful to society.
These perceptions create a powerful disincentive for younger generations to 1) pursue education that could lead to a job in oil and gas, and 2) consider the industry for career opportunities, especially in staff functions, where employees can choose from a wide range of industries.
While some of these perceptions, especially among teens or college students, may evolve with more real-world experience, they still point to a significant challenge for oil and gas companies competing for high-value talent to lead them into the future. Further, as the industry adapts to the last-cycle challenge, the workforce needs of oil and gas companies will also evolve and require a distinctive innovation skill set not currently accounted for.