Artificial Intelligence, Automation, Education, Employment, Featured 1, Gas Flaring, OFFSHORE OPERATIONS, Robotics
Artificial Intelligence, Automation, Data, Employment, Executive Brief, Featured 1, POLITICS & LEGAL
CANNONSBURG, Pa. — If there is mud on the floor, they say in the shale industry, that means cash is coming in the door. That is, when workers are out in the field and the boots are getting dirty, money is being made.
Thanks to an infusion of high technology driving the natural gas industry, it’s not just about dirty boots anymore – and it’s a good story. It’s a marriage of advanced technologies and dirt-under-your-nails hard work rarely told, because extracting shale is not a popular business politically.
Fracking, it turns out, is the one high-tech industry not embraced by politicians in Pittsburgh who are rushing to embrace the likes of Uber and Google. Why? Because local progressive Democrats, very vocal climate activists, and the burgeoning Democratic Socialists of America party demand a wholesale repudiation of the natural gas industry. Local Democratic officials thus have to oppose fracking or risk losing in a Democratic primary.
Today’s natural gas industry isn’t the same petroleum job your grandfather or your father would have applied for. It not only attracts computer scientists, software engineers, mathematicians, and geologists to relocate to Western Pennsylvania from around the country, but it also provides careers for locals who thought those good jobs left for good when the coal mines and steel mills closed a generation ago.
Plenty of locals, who perhaps were not cut out for college, just wanted an opportunity to work hard in an industry with a future. All the better if that industry utilized the resources of the land while conserving it — nobody wants to spoil the places for hunting, fishing, climbing, hiking, and camping. Even better, a local job would allow them to live near family.
Mike May is one such guy.
The 33-year-old grew up in Imperial, Pa., along the Lincoln Highway. After graduating from West Allegheny High School, May joined the Marines. When he left the service, he wanted to come back home to Western Pennsylvania and work his way up in the world, but he just didn’t know if he had the career skills.
“So, I started in the gas and oil fields literally working with my hands; I have worked in the industry from the bottom up,” he says as he stands in front of three monitors doing the same thing he did in the field.
No dirt under the nails. No weather dictating field conditions. No mud on the boots. Just precision automation that does the job a team of workers used to do in the field. Now, May does it inside the offices of CNX, a fracking company that broke off of energy giant CONSOL.
“Basically, I was a production operator,” explains May, “I ran all the physical operations, manual chokes, fixing anything that would break or go down; adjusting water dumps to increase the efficiency of the separators, water, and tank levels out there,” he says of the drilling sites.
Now, he does almost all of that remotely.
“See, this is the digital twin of the well site,” he says, pointing to one of several screens he is monitoring in a highly secure floor of the complex. “So, over here, we have all of our physical assets. This is the data surveillance side of the house. We’re also able to control and push parameters out to the field level. So, things I used have to do at the site and make physical changes I can do using technology,” he says.
Twenty miles north of this office, in Pittsburgh, several dozen young climate activists — about May’s age — protested last week in front of the mayor’s office. They pressed Democratic city and county leaders to stop the expansion of fracking in the county and to speak out against the Shell cracker plant under construction in the region.
Twenty miles in the opposite direction, public high schools are offering vocational training for their students that prepare them to walk off the high school football field on graduation day with their diplomas and into jobs that start at $129,000 a year.
Compared to the kids closer to Pittsburgh, these kids from rural high schools won’t have an inside track for jobs at the likes of Google, Uber, and others whom the Democratic mayor celebrates as part of the “new Pittsburgh.”
And the Shell cracker plant the climate activists were protesting? It doesn’t make really make crackers — cracking is the process that converts natural gas products into ethylene and then into plastics. The $6 billion dollar plant began construction last year, with construction employment expected to exceed 6,000 workers over the next ten years and provide 600 permanent positions once the plant is complete.
Since the 1920s, technology and automation have been disrupting the manufacturing world — eliminating jobs and growth opportunities throughout the different regions in the country. Here, technology is creating jobs. For May, automation and high technology didn’t take his job; it enriched it.
“Correct. I kinda evolved with the times. I am truly living the American Dream.”
What is the GEDS Certificate?
A multidisciplinary certification that:
Provides the analytical tools and frameworks necessary for assessing and addressing the long-term social, economic, and environmental impacts of oil and gas projects.
Introduces “best-practices” for creating energy projects that benefit all stakeholders (communities, companies, governments) in developing nations and new production regions.
Teaches students the historical and structural origins of the “Natural Resource Curse” as it manifests in different regions of the globe, and how to plan for and mitigate its effects.
Because the technical expertise of companies and governments has traditionally been focused on the efficient discovery and extraction of oil and gas resources, the skills required for developing energy projects that are sustainable and beneficial to all stakeholders (communities, companies, and governments alike) have not always been prioritized in training for an oil and gas career.
The Graduate Certificate in Global Energy, Development, and Sustainability (GEDS) provides students with such skills, imparting them through a unique, multi-disciplinary curriculum focused on the petroleum industry and its impact on societies. Classes are designed and taught by UH faculty and local/international energy experts with long academic, industry, and civil society/NGO experience. The certificate is one-of-a-kind, providing critical and timely knowledge, theory, and skill sets from fields such as business, economics, global oil and gas history, anthropology, environmental law/policy, international petroleum law, human rights law, political science, industrial occupational psychology, human resource management, corporate social responsibility, and risk analysis.
The GEDS Certificate is of benefit to those working or intending to work in the energy sector – including industry professionals, government officials and regulators, members of civil society or NGO activist/policy groups, energy consultants and financial advisors. Graduate students who are interested in energy, sustainability, and global or domestic energy policy are invited to apply as well.
Join us as we work to chart a course for a sustainable energy future, one that will benefit all stakeholders and help navigate the transitions to come!
Like many industries today, the oil industry is trying to sell its many job opportunities to the fastest growing portion of the global workforce: Millennials.
But unlike any other industry, oil and gas are facing more challenges in persuading the environmentally-conscious Millennials that oil is “cool”.
During the Super Bowl earlier this year, the American Petroleum Institute (API) launched an ad geared toward Millennials, who now make up the largest generation in the U.S. labor force.
“This ain’t your daddy’s oil”, the ad says, in what API described as “a modern look at how oil is integrated into products consumers use now and in the future supported by bold visuals.”
Despite its pitch to speak the Millennials’ language and reach out to the elusive generation, the ad sparked anger among many consumers and viewers.
Millennials continue to have the most negative opinion of the oil industry compared to all other industries, and they don’t see a career in oil and gas as their top choice of a workplace. The oil industry’s talent scouting and recruiting methods of the past are failing to reach Millennials, who want their work to have a positive impact on society, various studies and polls have found—a rather big ask for the oil industry.
This failure to reach the group that makes up the largest portion of today’s workforce—which now surpasses Generation X—points to a huge problem for the oil sector, as Baby Boomers move into retirement in droves.
Not only are Millennials snubbing oil and gas because of its negative image, they also seek different job perks than previous generations sought, and in this regard, the oil industry will need to do more as it becomes increasingly obvious that Millennials want different things than what oil executives think they want.
A total of 14 percent of Millennials say they would not want to work in the oil and gas industry because of its negative image—the highest percentage of any industry, McKinsey said in September 2016.
Young people see the industry as dirty, difficult, and dangerous, according to an EY survey published last month. EY’s survey polled Millennials—the 20-to-35-year-olds today—as well as Generation Z coming after them and found that younger generations “question the longevity of the industry as they view natural gas and oil as their parents’ fuels. Further, they primarily see the industry’s careers as unstable, blue-collar, difficult, dangerous and harmful to society.”
In addition, two out of three teens believe the oil and gas industry causes problems rather than solves them, the survey showed.
So ‘not your daddy’s oil’ is not sinking in with Millennials and Generation Z, and with many of them, it never will, despite the oil lobbies’ marketing efforts to try to make it sound like an attractive career path.
According to executives polled by EY, the top three drivers for young people would be salary (72 percent), opportunity to use the latest technology (43 percent), and a good work-life balance (38 percent). But young people—although they are also prioritizing salary—have other views on what they look for in a job. Salary is still the top priority at 56 percent, but a close second comes good work-life balance (49 percent), with job stability and on-the-job happiness equally important at 37 percent.
Executives are underestimating the importance of work-life balance and stability for Millennials while overestimating the allure of technology as a factor. It’s not surprising that Millennials are not as attracted to the opportunity to use new tech as oil executives believe they are – Millennials generally don’t see technology as a perk, they take it for granted.
Moreover, Millennials don’t see the oil and gas industry as innovative – a major driver of career choice among this generation. According to a recent report by Accenture, “Despite evidence to the contrary, many Millennials believe the sector is lacking innovation, agility, and creativity, as well as opportunities to engage in meaningful work. In fact, only 2 percent of U.S. college graduates consider the oil and gas industry their top choice for employment.”
Accenture is warning that ‘the talent well has run dry’ and said:
“We believe the growing workforce deficit will, in fact, be a greater barrier to oil and gas companies’ upturn success than any deficits that might exist in capital equipment or supplies.”
The oil and gas industry is losing the competition for talent recruitment to industries that are more appealing to Millennials, and U.S. oil and gas firms will face the talent crunch first, according to Accenture.
“Any mature industry has to think about the fact that there’s a new sheriff in town with new values, new spending habits,” Jeff Fromm, an expert in marketing to American Millennials, told Bloomberg.
And if the oil and gas industry wants to get this ‘new sheriff in town’ on board, it needs to profoundly change recruitment strategies and talent sourcing. But with the negative image that is probably set to become even more negative—despite oil organizations’ marketing efforts—oil and gas have a huge workforce problem looming.
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