Oil & Gas Industry Share Best Practices to Avoid Demographic Cliff

The oil & gas industry has experienced an era of intense and accelerated growth over the last few years, despite a sagging economy. Combined that with the industry’s aging workforce (the average age is nearly 50-years-old), and the expected retirements in the next five years, and suddenly you have too few skilled professionals coming through the ranks to replace those leaving. That gap is expanding at an alarming rate.

It’s a talent crisis, or as the World Petroleum Council coined it, the industry is “on the edge of a demographic cliff.”

Those demographics have not gone unnoticed. In fact, there is a groundswell of industry leaders who started a roundtable two years ago to share oil & gas industry best training practices and brainstorm ideas for challenging times. In 2013, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) partnered with The Mosaic Company to offer the Gas & Pipeline Industry Training Roundtable. This year, Atmos Energy sponsored the roundtable with Mosaic, with one-third more participants than the previous year. The 2015 roundtable, scheduled next February is already in development and promises to be even bigger.

At the recently-held roundtable in Dallas, the aging workforce and comprehensive training programs emerged as the top themes of the conference. Since the emphasis is on training, the dialogue focused on employee development and attracting young people to the industry. These conversations among the largest gas utilities and oil companies in the nation are vital to address the issues of the day.

The general consensus is we have to bridge the knowledge gap by building programs and mentorships as we recruit younger generations who need to absorb the knowledge of those retiring. To remain safe, the industry is under pressure to ensure that its workforce is competent and qualified. The ‘tribal knowledge’ walking out the door is a genuine business problem for numerous industries but especially the oil & gas sector.

When PG&E and Mosaic organized the roundtable in 2013, the event focused on the findings from an industry-wide benchmark of natural gas training programs. During that time, participants agreed that an annual conference would greatly enhance the industry.

“We all operate under the same federal regulations,” said Fred Beversdorf, manager of Atmos Energy’s technical training delivery. “Therefore, if we can help each other raise the bar on safety and reliability, it will help our industry as a whole.

“All of us want to do the right things, and we want to do our work smartly,” he added. We all benefit from developing employees who are highly skilled and engaged. It’s just smart to share the knowledge and ideas we have.”

Participants at the February Gas & Pipeline Industry Training Roundtable included Atmos Energy, BP, Centerpoint Energy, National Grid, Dominion East Ohio, Kinder Morgan, LG&E and KU, NiSource, NW Natural, Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric, Southwest Gas, Spectra Energy and Xcel Energy.

We’re excited to see this event grow and become a premiere annual conference for leaders in the oil and gas industry. Stay tuned for more information on the 2015 conference, to be held in Houston.

John Benoit, director of oil & gas practice area