Oil and Gas Industry Offers Affirmation to Career Hopefuls

Hopeful Graduates

Consider the engineering graduate hoping to land an E&P job. Or the business student striving to score a position as an energy trader. Prior to the third quarter of 2014, energy career hopefuls like these successfully flooded the oil and gas job market due to industry stability and growth that existed for the better part of a decade. However, during the last two-plus years, college graduates have faced one of the most daunting and unrewarding oil and gas job markets in recent history. These energy career enthusiasts began college planning to join a thriving oil and gas industry. Upon graduation, however, they were met by a sub-$40 per barrel oil market in which companies were implementing large cost-cutting measures through layoffs, reduced output and decreased capital expenditures. Add to the pile--bankruptcies, the looming threat of climate change, an abundance of qualified applicants--and finding success in the oil and gas job market becomes an enormous uphill battle for recent graduates. In fact, the challenge is so daunting that engineering schools nationwide--no longer able to promise job security--have experienced significant reductions in applications.

Oil & Gas Job Market

However, alongside an expected 2017 crude oil price recovery comes the potential for a favorable transition in the oil and gas job market. There are multiple reasons for recently graduated hopefuls and new hires to be optimistic about a career in oil and gas. First, a price recovery gives executives more breathing room to focus on operational efficiencies and long-term cost restraint measures as opposed to short-term strategies, like layoffs. Many energy company executives expect layoffs to cease and hiring to recommence in 2017. As prices rise, resilient U.S. shale producers can operate in-line with breakeven economics. Increased domestic production and capital expenditures, paired with a seemingly-cooperative OPEC, pave the way for stability in the oil and gas job market.

New Government Implications

Next, under newly inaugurated President Trump, regulation in the energy industry promises to be much more encouraging to new careerists. In the first of many expected pro-energy actions, President Trump signed executive orders that attempt to make the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines possible, despite the anti-pipeline rulings made under the previous administration. As Trump tries to grow America’s industrial strength, oil and gas employees can expect less interference from the government and special interest groups and more focus on the creation of jobs and energy independence. Further, alternative energy is headed for uncertainty under Trump as tax incentives and subsidies for companies and consumers could be questioned. Lastly, if global demand growth can meet expectations, particularly in emerging markets and Asia, then U.S. shale producers could stand to benefit in a large way. In expectation of a supply-demand balance, major oil companies are making significant investments in upstream assets again, indicating that the power of U.S. shale remains steadfast. With advances in operational technologies and a push for increased information technology in the energy industry, young people are well positioned to meet labor needs in the U.S.

The future of the oil and gas industry is certainly up for debate. Numerous factors such as political uncertainty, climate change and international competition threaten the livelihood of the domestic market. However, recent developments in the energy industry seem to be shifting the landscape favorably for future energy career candidates. It could be time for employment optimism to return to the energy industry.

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