Amid Layoffs, Young Oilfield Workers Are Rethinking Their Careers

The abrupt oil market crash has some workers wondering if a job in the sector is still worth it.

By Alexandra HartJune 24, 2020 12:46 pm,

“Terminal Decline” are the words a London-based think tank called Carbon Tracker used to characterize the state of the oil industry. The rise of green energy paired with the coronavirus pandemic has hobbled a market already prone to boom and bust cycles.

And as the sector endures another crash, some workers – particularly younger workers – headed into the industry are rethinking their careers.

Sergio Chapa, oil and gas industry reporter for the Houston Chronicle, spoke to some of them. The unprecedented scale of mass layoffs in the Texas oil and gas sector – more than 26,000 in April alone – has led to unease among workers.

“The one thing that makes [this crash] stand out from previous busts and other busts is how fast it happened,” Chapa told Texas Standard host David Brown on Wednesday. “That rapidity of job loss has never been seen in the industry, and it’s something to reckon with.

The youngest workers and the oldest workers in the industry tend to bear the brunt of these layoffs, Chapa said.

“It’s also a barrier to entry to the industry to college students and recent college grads.”

One of those recent college graduates Chapa talked to is Troy Hilde. Hilde graduated with a degree in mechanical and civil engineering, and was working a well-paying job for an oilfield services company. Then he was laid off in April. He’s now studying for his MBA at Texas A&M University.

Chapa said that workforce development experts worry that young talent like Hilde exiting the industry for good will put strain on the industry long term.

“The fear is that some of these workers are just going to tap out; they’ve had enough. With the older workers, they’re feeling pressure to take these buyouts and retirement packages,” he said. “What you see happening is a bubble being created of workers aged 40-55 staying in the industry, and you’re not getting that new generation.”

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