Oil and gas industry faces changes

01 14, 2013 by Daily Advertiser

The oil and gas industry is going through a "big crew change" with large portions of the aging workforce nearing retirement. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated that up to 50 percent of the energy workforce will retire this decade, leaving the industry with a worker shortage and without its institutional knowledge.

Local industry leaders have recognized that young professionals need to be ready for that transition and created the Louisiana Gas and Oil Exposition young professionals committee last year.

"The young guys like myself are being welcomed with opened arms by the older guys," said Tom Hebert, the chairman of the Young Professionals Committee. "It's a great opportunity for young guys to come in and grab the bull by the horns and move forward."

Hebert, a 35-year-old sales manager at Frank's Casing Crew, was invited to a LAGCOE meeting last year and asked to become involved committee. He looked around the room and noticed that he and one other attendee were the only people under 40 in the room.

The entire U.S. workforce is aging with the baby boomer generation reaching retirement age, but the energy industry's is older than the national average. The average of an oil and gas worker is 50 years old, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"The executive-type guys know the young people in the oil and gas industry are the future," Hebert said.

Hebert contacted as many young professionals that he knew and each one was excited participate, knowing that involvement likely could lead them to become future industry leaders. Hebert has held monthly meetings with about a dozen committee members and on Friday held the first event for young professionals throughout the industry.

The Petroleum Club's Walnut Room was packed Friday, with every one of the 120 seats taken for the Young Professionals of LAGCOE kick-off luncheon, where speakers encouraged attendees to stay in Lafayette.

Featured speaker Frank Harrison, Optimistic Oil president, told the room full of 20- and 30-somethings that he considered moving, but is proud to have helped the industry here develop.

"I want all of you to promote Lafayette and let's keep it the service center and help it to grow," Harrison said. "There's no place like Lafayette."

Jared Hebert, a corrosion engineer at Costal Chemicals, was one of the young professionals at the luncheon Friday and understood why professionals here could be lured away elsewhere.

"I do a lot of traveling to Texas and other states for work, but I'm from Lafayette and I think it's very important to have young engineers and young professionals in the industry stay here," Hebert said. "If they're recruited somewhere else, that could hurt our (local) industry."

Seventy percent of national oil companies acknowledged project delays due to staffing difficulties, during the 2011 oil and gas HR benchmark survey administered by Schlumberger Business Consulting.

"The guys that have been running LAGCOE for the last 30 to 50 years are getting up to retirement age," Hebert said. "They're realizing that we need these young kids to learn what they've been doing for the last 30, 40 years so they can carry on the tradition."

The committee plans to hold a clay shoot soon to benefit the LAGCOE education fund, along with holding monthly happy hours, a cookoff and job fair.

It also will raise money for the LAGCOE scholarship fund, which is aimed at students who want to stay in Lafayette. Several UL students attended the luncheon last week.