What the energy, oil and gas industry can learn
from one company’s experience in refueling the talent pipeline.
By Justine Smith
When the energy, oil and gas industry experienced a steep and prolonged decline, the effects were widespread and fluctuating oil prices ignited a lack of confidence that still lingers today. But while Deloitte’s 2017 Oil and Industry Outlook shows that many companies are still in survival mode and emphasizes shifting to short-term plans, the industry remains focused on a hopeful future.
A key to that future lies in attracting skilled talent to re-energize the industry, and there is a strong case for a fresh perspective evident in both the nearer-term job statistics and the longer-term needs of a growing planet.
The Manufacturing Institute estimates a 2 million worker shortfall by 2025, with six out of 10 manufacturing positions currently unfilled due to the skills gap. In addition, by 2050, the world population will rise to an estimated 10 billion people, who will consume 50 percent more primary energy and require 30 percent more food. To shrink this widening gap and fuel innovation with sustainability in mind, we must overcome any misperceptions surrounding our industry and emphasize the rewarding careers and high-impact opportunities available.
It Starts with Education
Over the past decade, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) appreciation has grown, increasing general knowledge of related careers and just how essential they are to our future. But children often lose interest in the STEM disciplines by the sixth grade, with girls becoming disinterested even earlier. BASF – along with others – is helping to shape early educational programs designed to inspire and excite kids of all backgrounds. The goal is to foster students’ interest in the sciences early through interactive, hands-on educational programs for grades K-12.
As part of its commitment to STEM, BASF created the TECH Academy with River Parishes Community College in Louisiana for rising high school juniors and seniors. Through this experience, students make the first-hand connection between their school work and how they can begin preparing for their future careers. Students also meet professionals and tour facilities such as the BASF site in Geismar, La.; a Coca-Cola bottling facility; the Louisiana State Police Crime Lab in Baton Rouge; and the NASA facility in Michoud, La.
The company also developed unique educational partnerships with community colleges and universities near its key locations to increase the quality and quantity of its talent pipeline, and to pair with specific degree programs that align with its hiring projections. Through nested educational partnerships with these institutions, the company helps influence and guide curriculum development.
Various companies are also working to create technical programs, apprenticeships, educational curriculum and on-the-job programs to widen the talent pipeline. There are a range of rewarding career opportunities for individuals with two-year associate degrees all the way through Ph.D.s who want to make a lasting impact on the critical issues of today and tomorrow through collaborative problem-solving.
Beyond the Classroom
There’s no better way to learn about a career than hands-on experience. Site tours, job shadowing and internships align academic learning with on-the-job relevance. And the reverse – faculty externships – provide teachers with first-hand exposure that enriches classroom teaching and helps them better prepare students for real-world opportunities. Teachers also gain an accurate appreciation of the value of manufacturing careers – both earning potential and job satisfaction.
While education is an important piece of how we attract new talent, we must also engage mid-career candidates. With job opportunities throughout the value chain – including oilfield application, engineering, research and development, finance, sales and industrial marketing – we can recruit applicants from a variety of industries and backgrounds.
But it takes a broader view: thinking differently and building relationships with those who provide diverse perspectives and expertise. Many companies are expanding on this approach through networking to connect with mid-career experts ahead of job availability and strengthen the pipeline of potential employees.
Helping Women Advance
As part of our efforts to diversify our talent bench, BASF this year introduced a first-of-its-kind curriculum to help women advance in manufacturing careers. The multi-year program includes education, mentorship and career support, and provides early-in-career talent with insights and knowledge to chart a career path as innovative as the jobs that are available.
At this pivotal point in history, it’s up to us to guide the way and set standards and examples for the future. Leveraging shared networks and raising awareness through education will reignite enthusiasm for the energy, oil and gas field, resulting in a robust pool of aspiring innovators dedicated to solving the world’s biggest challenges.
Justine Smith is BASF’s vice president and business manager of global oilfield solutions, headquartered in Houston. The business sells chemicals into the upstream oil and gas value chain, which includes drilling, cementing, stimulation and production.