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Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews. 

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“Dirty, Difficult, And Dangerous”: Why Millennials Won’t Work In Oil


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 is 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 with many consumers and viewers.

Millennials continue to have the most negative opinion toward 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.  

Related: Ecuador Abandons The OPEC Deal: Who’s Next?

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.” Related: U.S. May Halt Oil Imports From Venezuela

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 has a huge workforce problem looming.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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  • Lee James on July 20 2017 said:
    I'll suggest that today's oil industry can have the right image for millennials if these companies are broadly seen as "energy" companies, transitioning to a more sustainable life form. :)
  • Oilracle on July 20 2017 said:
    ---Why Millennials Won’t Work In Oil---

    As long as American semi-socialist government can print debt dollars!

    True capitalism would pay 3x, 10x, 100x times if it would bring profit.
  • Gina on July 20 2017 said:
    This is very ironic!

    Becoming a chemical engineer, and working in the oil industry, would give one opportunities for a far higher impact on society than most any other occupation. Through every project working at a chemical/ petrochemical plant, one can help develop energy-saving technologies in the production of millions of consumer goods that people need and want daily--many such projects saving more energy for society than a person (and his/her extended family) will use in generations. That's what the technical employees of any petrochemical plant do! Where else can you have such a dramatically positive impact?
  • EW3 on July 20 2017 said:
    Been around long enough to notice that since the draft ended our young men have become less willing to do actual hard work.

    Nothing like boot camp to cut off the umbilical from Mommy.
    And a year and a half of touring this world and dealing with different cultures to broaden your thinking.
  • Randall on July 20 2017 said:
    If we only have 40 years of conventional oil left (according to the EIA and the IEA), why would anybody want to work in a dying industry.
  • Tony on July 20 2017 said:
    I work in oil and wouldn't recommend it. This industry is mean and dirty. Pay and benefits have been going downhill for the last 20 years. And forget security.
  • Johrg Morhart on July 20 2017 said:
    I have worked in oil for 35 years and have amassed a several million dollar fortune because of the high pay and great benefits and pension. I have never been out of work.
    If there is only 40 years of reserves left as someone suggests, why would you not want to work in oil as it will provide employment for longer than you want to work. These young people are just spoiled and lazy. They will eventually find out that mommie's basement isn't always going to be there for them. Good luck!
  • KG527 on July 20 2017 said:
    Our young generation is so brainwashed at universities by the green, "climate change/global warming" wackos, that they are really LOST. They are programmed that when the going gets too difficult for them they just collapse and fail. They do not know the word perseverance, how to struggle, overcome problems, solve problems. They want the solution to be given to them. Hard work, and perseverance are not in their vocabulary.
    The universities elites badly fails young the people. They impose their own agenda about the world on them, and the end result is young people coming out with useless degree, very high monetary expectations, very poor work ethics, lost, and me, me, me attitude. Enough on this.

    The truth is oil industry is a great field to work for anybody, and in particular for young, educated engineers. If you want to solve problems, innovate, cleanup environment, etc..etc.. this is the place to be. Technology changes very fast also in this field, and that creates opportunities. It is very rewarding for hands on people, who like to get their hands dirty. The sky is the limit, if you have the right attitude.
  • SD on July 21 2017 said:
    I work in the industry and have for 15 years. I'm kind of wondering when the old timers will get out of my way and let Gen X lead for a while. At some point you people need to retire and let us attract them to the industry. I'm getting kind of sick of this millennial bashing. They are lazy and unmotivated at times, I will admit that part is true. But, maybe, they don't want to work with their parents which goes back to my second sentence. my 2 cents
  • David on July 21 2017 said:
    Last I checked millennials need jobs too. I just hired 5 and they love the opportunity and they like the paycheck too. It's ok if you don't like the oil and gas industry and think it's not worth it, find a different field and go to work. It's not ok to begin your career in protest of a certain field and not work.
  • Ven Haris on July 22 2017 said:
    I'm 52 and I work as an E-tech in Frack jobs all over South and West Texas... These snowflakes are more trouble than their worth. They're cocky and cry and moan about everything and spend their time trying to get out of doing the work and throwing each other under the bus with the boss. Let them work at Starbucks and walmart so they can smoke pot and live in mommy and daddies basement the rest of their lives....
  • No on July 24 2017 said:
    The oil industry is like the meth cooker industry. They both innovate...they both kill. Denial may have worked with baby boomers (see tobacco), but the cat is out of the bag. Until the industry start having an HONEST (and not two-faced) conversation about the pro/con of oil, they aren't going to win over much of the millennial cohort.
  • Alimbiquated on July 24 2017 said:
    In marketing you need to keep the base attitude of the subject in mind when you ask a question like this. If his attitude is positive, the subject will point to the advantages or positive features, real or imagined. If it is negative, the subject will point to the flaws.

    Oil used to seem like the future. Remember the advice about plastic in The Graduate. To younger people it now seems boring and irrelevant to their smart phones. So they accentuate the negative.
  • Josh Gregner on July 25 2017 said:
    I believe in capitalism. If you don't find enough workers, you don't pay enough. No matter what industry. And I certainly would want to be compensated to enter a declining/dying industry if I had some 40 years to go. Oil just doesn't really look appealing now. No point in complaining about millennials, boomers, whatever.

    Pay up or shut up.
  • Luke on July 25 2017 said:
    Despite the "bad" perception of the oil industry the well of talent may be dry because the education system has been pushing unproductive social degrees or at best a law degree. Although these people are ignorant that they are consumers of the oil industry, most are useless outside of working in a coffee shop, who wants them besides their parents. If Generation Z does not fulfill careers in oil and industry then several things will happen. The cost of living will increase, there will be more of a trade imbalance, the Federal government will be forced to become more socialistic and skilled foreigners will need to be brought in to work.
  • Jack on July 29 2017 said:
    If every government around the world stopped subsidising renewables and then the playing field between oil, gas, coal and renewables would be levelled from a pricing point. All the greenies wanting renewables will have to pay market prices and everyone else can pay the cheaper option. That will sort out the doomsday reports that oil & gas is a dying industry - complete rubbish.
    If the millennials don't wont to work in the oil & gas industry then make it attractive to keep the older generation in the industry.
  • J on August 01 2017 said:
    If M's and Z's have turned their backs, seek alternatives. Perhaps the winning HR strategy is to rehire all the experienced talent that was fired during the downturn.
  • Trevor on August 05 2017 said:
    "A total of 14 percent of Millennials say they would not want to work in the oil and gas industry". So, 86 percent would work in the oil and gas industry! That is a lot of people.
  • Eric on August 07 2017 said:
    Funny... There is still a higher number of Petroleum Engineering students than there has EVER been. Just because you interview and poll all the millennials who don't have jobs and drove their parents' SUVs out to protest the pipeline, doesn't mean interest is down at all. As soon as prices climb with increasing demand (and it will eventually) even the people you polled will be begging for pipelines and cheaper gas prices.
  • debsid on August 16 2017 said:
    Ok so they wont work in oil because it is bad for the environment, and what ever other reasons.

    Lithium mining for battery production will be the new wave of the future. (currently around $20,000 a ton)
    Disposal of the old used cells will be another waste problem.
    So we still have the same issue like we had with oil.
    You cant win them all.

    Um, lets find a source of energy that is non destructive.

    Or better yet, lets just make transporter devices like in Star Trek.
    We could transport anything in seconds, people, goods, whatever.
    Oops, that will create more laws, and taxes, restrictions, and whatever else.

    Too much egotistical greed controlling the planet.
    Ego needs to be tamed before we can make any real progress as a human race.

    Humans have a long way to go, but a short time to get there.
  • Bubba on August 18 2017 said:
    The oil majors always shoot themselves in the foot by laying off hundreds if not thousands of people In leaner times. People want to know they have a steady job, so the knowledge of these people is shown the door. No need to just blame younger people, oilco's never seem to learn. Fire people then Complain about the lack of skilled Labour and professionals.

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