The energy transition certainly presents plenty of challenges, from policy pressures and regulatory reforms to technology gaps, but it also offers an opportunity to attract talent for companies that position themselves as actively pursuing a sustainable path.
To be future-ready, oil and gas companies need to simultaneously fill the jobs pipeline with new talent while retaining the expertise of industry veterans for a smooth knowledge transfer, many of whom are eying retirement. Newly minted talent also bring a diversity of perspectives and the benefit of having learned the latest advances taught in engineering schools.
The issue, especially with Generation Z, is the oil and gas industry has an image problem. Rather than viewed as leaders in the vanguard of the energy transition, oil and gas is considered old school and disproportionally responsible for our climate problem. The industry can’t afford for its efforts to combat climate change, such as reducing flaring, halting fugitive methane emissions, lowering carbon intensity, cutting GHG emissions, etc., to remain a best-kept secret. If young engineers were to understand the Herculean efforts companies are taking to decarbonize their operations and leverage their expertise across the energy system, they would want to flock to the energy business to work as part of the solution.
As an additional dimension, the Great Resignation is rippling across many industries as stay-at-home workers find themselves wanting career changes during the pandemic. At the same time, the oil and gas industry continues to struggle with the Great Compression, a term used by Deloitte in its Future of Work in oil, gas and chemicals study to describe the compounded challenges of price volatility, demand destruction, rising debt and shrinking market capitalization. Talent retention has taken blows recently due to the historical boom-bust cycles and then the COVID-19 crash. Oil prices may be on the rise again, but volatility isn’t a magnet for talent.
The key to retaining talent of any age – especially in oil and gas companies – is upskilling employees. A great example cited by Deloitte in its report is Shell enabling AI-based training to ready employees for new roles and responsibilities in the energy transition.
Technology is a Key Driver
Gen Z wants to work in technology, and for these career entrants, “tech” means companies like Google, Tesla, Apple or Amazon. Although technological advancements are driving the energy transition, the message is not getting out there.
While Gen Z seeks passion and purpose with work, they still want to make money. Job security is valued by this generation because they want to be able to weather economic storms. In fact, 44% of Gen Z-ers surveyed by YPulse said they would rather earn well and not be super passionate about their work than be enthralled by work but poorly paid. What if they knew the energy sector pays well?
YPulse, a Gen Z and Millennials research firm, also asked 13-39-year-olds to name their dream industry and energy did not make the list. No. 1 is “technology company” and other top industries include IT/software, media/entertainment and “auto company.”
Now, what if Gen Z realized that automotive is energy and that digital innovations are essential in the energy industry, including for emissions controls, batteries and synthetic sustainable fuels? But the energy transition is not yet blinking green and cool on their radar.
One limiting factor to breaking through may be lack of familiarity with the term “energy transition” with audiences outside the energy industry. Google Trends shows the search term “energy transition” barely registers compared to climate change.
It appears that Gen Zers are not connecting or even comprehending that climate change – an issue of grave concern for them - is inextricably attached to the energy transition. Worse, legitimate and viable technologies are glibly dismissed as greenwashing.
The energy sector must get the word out that it is taking real action to mitigate emissions, decarbonize oil and gas, scale up green power and develop breakthroughs for carbon capture and green hydrogen. Gen Z is well-educated and motivated, but they won’t care about what they don’t know. It’s critical for energy employees to showcase why the energy transition holds the career possibilities they are seeking, especially the opportunity to be an agent of change.
Employers leaning into the energy transition in transparent and exciting ways can attract new talent who are eager, curious and open minded. That’s just the type of learners the industry needs to push forward with real, meaningful and impactful change.