Most American adults (51%) would be happy if their children chose a career in the oil and natural gas industry, but for those children without set career paths, only about one-quarter of Generation Z and 45% of Millennials find energy industry jobs appealing, according to a new poll.
The Ernst & Young LLP (EY) U.S. Oil and Gas Perception poll found that most of the younger generation perceives 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 EY’s Deborah Byers, U.S. Energy Leader. "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."
Generation Z, aka post-Millennials, typically were born in the mid-1990s to early 2000s. Millennials typically are defined as being born in the mid early 1980s to mid-1990s.
In fact, the lack of energy industry appeal among young people is driven to a large degree by the degree to which young women find oil and gas jobs unappealing.
According to the EY 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.
To better understand the differences between reality and perception around oil and gas, EY during the first quarter conducted the nationwide poll of more than 1,200 consumers and 100 industry executives. A total of 1,204 U.S. consumers aged 16 and older were interviewed online nationwide, including 1,004 aged 19 and older and 200 who were 16-18. A total of 109 oil and gas executives based in North America were interviewed online.
The younger generation actually holds “fairly traditional” career priorities, the poll found.
“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%).”
However, oil and gas executives expected the leading career drivers for young people to be salary (72%), technology (43%), good work-life balance (38%), and the opportunity to try new roles (28%).
Executives appear to overestimate the “allure of technology for young people while undervaluing work-life balance and stability,” said researchers.
In addition, the energy executives don’t 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,” the EY poll said.
"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 EY’s Rachel Everaard, principal in Oil & Gas People Advisory Services. "Companies need to embrace the workforce of the future and evolve to better serve current and prospective employees."
Technology is seen as playing a crucial role in revolutionizing the energy industry workforce, impacting the number and type of employees needed.
For example, companies may implement digital automation for a range of repetitive tasks that now require staff time. In turn, they may quickly and inexpensively adjust to a smaller hiring pool by focusing recruiting efforts on qualified individuals for key roles.
Oil and gas executives appear to be adapting to this mindset. Of the executives surveyed, 81% said the industry needed to develop an educated, highly skilled workforce over the next 10 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."
In the survey, net responses were calculated by subtracting the percentage of negative responses from the percentage of positive responses.