The Oil Industry Struggles to Recruit Younger Workers

Millennials and Gen Z Have Negative Perceptions of the Industry

The oil industry faced numerous hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic. In April, global oil demand was 20% lower than it was one year earlier. Now, oil and gas companies are up against a more long-term challenge: Their workforce is aging and they are struggling to recruit younger generations to work in the industry.

According to a 2017 study, 44% of people ages 20 to 35 saw a career in oil and gas as “unappealing.” Almost two-thirds of people ages 16 to 19 shared this view. In 2018, petroleum engineering was the highest-paid undergraduate major in the US because demand for workers in the sector was high and supply was low.

Companies Wary of Repeating Mistakes

Companies like Chevron (CVX) and BP PLC (BP) have grappled with generational gaps in their workforces after downturns before. They are trying to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.

During the oil crash in the 1980s, many companies slashed jobs for younger workers. This left them dealing with a lack of workers two decades later during the shale boom. Some companies even recruited retirees to return to work because they were so shorthanded.

Despite Job Cuts, Companies Protect Internship and Recruiting Programs

This year, oil and gas companies slashed about 20% of their jobs between March and June, or about 105,000 positions. However, companies are being careful to keep up their internship programs and recruiting at universities to avoid coming out of this downturn without younger workers to push their businesses forward.

The oil and gas industry sees that input from younger workers is crucial for their long-term survival, especially as they face competition from EV and renewable energy companies.

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