The fossil industry is facing yet another severe challenge as the post-carbon energy transition unfolds: since 2014, there’s been a sharp drop in the number of university graduates willing to consider careers in oil and gas.
“For decades, science and engineering graduates have followed a well-worn path from top UK universities into the oil and gas industry, supplying the skilled work force that’s needed to discover and develop resources all over the world,” the news agency reports. “In recent years, the flow of talent has slowed to a trickle, raising fundamental questions for an industry that remains a vital cog in the global economy.”
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A UK statistical agency placed the number of graduates going into oil and gas exploration at an all-time low in 2017, collapsing by 61% in just four years.
And the defections aren’t limited to the UK. “The industry is facing recruitment challenges all over the world,” Bloomberg reports. “In a survey of more than 33,000 people working in oil and gas conducted by oilandgasjobsearch.com and NES Global Talent, almost 90% said skills shortages were damaging productivity, with gaps widening in every sector of the industry.”
Fossils are trying to fight the trend, offering scholarships at elite institutions like Oxford University that end with “fast-tracked” job interviews. But “these incentives aren’t always enough to attract the best talent,” the news agency writes, citing geoscience manager Lucy Williams, chair of the UK Geological Society’s petroleum group. Despite their most determined efforts, “Big Oil’s association with climate change and environmental damage is affecting graduate recruitment.”
“University petroleum courses are being asked to take petroleum out of their name, because people think petroleum is the devil,” Williams said in an interview. “I suspect [there are] some people who start on it in their education and then get turned away from it.” Oxford grad Robert Paver told Bloomberg that only one of 28 students in his graduating year would be entering the fossil industry. “People are worried that there aren’t going to be as many jobs in the future, especially geology-related jobs, because of a movement away from fossil fuels,” he said. “With oil companies making fewer discoveries and not wanting to invest as much in exploration, they’re worried in the future it’s maybe not going to be viable.”