Nearly every day, in some way, we are touched by the oil and natural gas industry. Oil and gas serve as the building blocks for many of the products we use in our daily lives, whether it's the gas we put in our cars lawnmowers and weed whackers, or it's the fuel in the tanks hooked up to our grills, smokers and fryers. The energy sector is responsible for the plastic plates that hold our food and the red solo cups that we use to quench our thirst. Every company uses fuel to power their businesses - in their office spaces, restaurants or stores, or in the planes that carry them from place to place. This is why oil and natural gas factor into our nation's news cycle daily with stories about the U.S.'s drive towards energy independence, the Keystone pipeline and the endless debates on fracking. The point is we've heard them all…except perhaps the biggest problem - the one from within.
By various estimates, about 50 percent of U.S. employees in the oil and gas industry will be eligible for retirement in the next five years. One
study suggests that there are more than twice as many energy executives nearing retirement today as there are replacements available for them. Even with the recent slide in crude, the nation's domestic energy boom is invigorating our economy and providing many well-paying job opportunities. But if the energy industry's talent pipeline can't be filled, then projects may be delayed and productivity could suffer.
Salaries have been rising in response to the potential labor shortage. But a "war for talent" is expensive, and may be insufficient to address the problem. The most foresighted energy firms are taking a hands-on approach to finding, developing and retaining key personnel, skills and knowledge.
The present workforce shortage has its roots in the oil bust of the 1980s, when hiring froze and many schools shed their training programs, according to the
National Journal. As a result, fewer students chose engineering or petrochemical majors.
To prevent future workforce crises, some energy companies are supporting training and education programs at high schools and colleges, as well as broadening the search for talent. Additionally, workforce planning and knowledge management are two keys to helping fight this challenge within the sector.
Beyond managing fluctuations in commodity prices, keeping the pipeline full with not just oil, but talent, is critical for the sector to thrive.
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