Press release

EY poll finds oil and gas industry faces talent problem in young American perceptions

Houston, 20 June 2017

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  • Only 26% of Generation Z respondents find oil and gas careers appealing
  • 55% of consumers cite a blue-collar role when asked what oil and gas job first comes to mind
  • Executives rank job stability as industry’s biggest weakness; salary as strength

While more than half of adults (51%) 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 EY’s US 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, US Energy Leader, Ernst & Young LLP. “But younger generations’ perceptions of oil and gas are leading them elsewhere. There are a couple of contributing factors to these views: 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 and the careers that power it, and a substantial gender gap. Young women’s views on jobs in oil and gas are particularly concerning.”

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 US Oil and Gas Perception survey, only 24% of women between 16 and 35 find industry jobs appealing while 54% of men in the same age range find them appealing.

Disconnect between executives and younger generations

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, as whole, 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.

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, US Oil & Gas People Advisory Services Principal, Ernst & Young LLP. “Companies need to embrace the workforce of the future and evolve to better serve current and prospective employees.”

Using technology to address workforce issues

Technology will play a crucial role in revolutionizing the industry’s workforce – impacting 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. Eighty-one percent of executives surveyed 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.”

About the survey

To better understand the differences between reality and perception around oil and gas, EY conducted a nationwide poll of more than 1,200 consumers and 100 industry executives in the US in the first quarter of 2017. A total of 1,204 American consumers aged 16 and older were interviewed online nationwide, including: 1,004 Americans aged 19 and older and 200 Americans aged 16 to 18. A total of 109 oil and gas executives based in North America were interviewed online.

In the survey, net responses were calculated by subtracting the percentage of negative responses from the percentage of positive responses.

Study findings and illustrations can be found at Additional analysis is forthcoming on the topics of climate change, regulation and tax reform.

About EY

EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. The insights and quality services we deliver help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over. We develop outstanding leaders who team to deliver on our promises to all of our stakeholders. In so doing, we play a critical role in building a better working world for our people, for our clients and for our communities.

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This news release has been issued by Ernst & Young LLP, a member firm of EY serving clients in the US.

About EY’s Global Oil & Gas Sector

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