From 2006 to 2010 the focus and need for Oil & Gas professionals in Geoscience, Engineering and Field services saw skyrocketing numbers for The Marcellus and Barnett Shale. Quietly, but consistently, the growth in the Bakken & Williston basins moved forward and today carries the same “Branding” that was seen in the aforementioned plays. Also, during this time, there were a few players who had recognized the potential in South Texas in the Eagleford and a somewhat forgotten region in West Texas. At this point in time, not just the industry, but the outside public can tell you where the country’s O&G production is at its highest points as the media coverage has not been shy about exposing these areas either for the economic/job strengths or the environmental issues that are covered. There is still some job growth in the Marcellus region as many producers are exploiting the non-New York Utica and Illinois Basins as these are liquid rich plays. While the tax credits made available in Alaska should have caused increased activity, there are still substantial costs associated with the formulation of the new tax treatments associated with that region.
Most of the job changes in Alaska have been musical chairs, more than job growth. California is still struggling with 10 bills posted against hydraulic “fracking”, but they are getting close. The economic expectations the Monterrey Shale could provide will continue to encourage those fighting to develop the assets. As California is thin on Oil & Gas talent, there will be a mad rush to fill those gaps should legislation occur that will allow for unconventional drilling/production. With further development in the Permian, specifically, the Wolfberry Shale, there is continued job growth occurring here, as well. However, the difficulty with increased hiring in this region has other obstacles than the traditional and to some people, may be surprising. Specifically in West Texas, housing and civil infrastructure is struggling to keep up with the population growth and many of the job changes are individuals already residing within the area. We have seen some companies overcome this by reorganizing as many jobs as possible to HQ or alternate office locations. However, companies who are recruiting out of talent from this area to go to a new region will have greater success as these professionals are not hand-cuffed by their home ownership. The last two people we recruited from Midland were able to sell their homes in less than two weeks. While many of the stronger regions I have mentioned are primarily liquid hydrocarbons which have track records of repeatability.
Some of the newer liquid plays, such as the Mississippian are still risky drills and have not exploded as may have been previously expected as well as the majority of the Utica cannot yet be developed due to New York policy against Hydraulic “Fracking”. While off shore drilling and production is growing again, there are still many factors keeping that on the lower side of growth in comparison to the activities on shore. However, the specialization that off shore/sub-sea professionals possess allows for a good level of stability in that job market. The surge in this space has primarily been for African or South American based operations.
The specific jobs that are hot still exist in the six traditional roles for Reservoir, Drilling, Completions and Production Engineers as well as Exploration and Development Geologists. There have been many new operators formed through privately owned companies ether backed by private equity or having a private equity MLP drop down org. structure. As these operators are well capitalized, many of them have done an excellent job in creating strategic plans to acquire mature conventional plays. This has caused a surge in the amount of companies seeking Exploitation/Reservoir Engineers. This has also put an emphasis on Development Geologists and increased the level of Regional Operational leadership roles. We have seen a dramatic shift in our client requests for positions that desire Senior Advisor level or greater. There has not been a better time for middle management and senior leadership to consider new opportunities in the market. Part of the need for the leadership still comes about as a result of an enduring issue that the industry will most likely face for at least the ten years, the development of younger talent. The ratio between qualified professionals and the number of positions which exist in traditional O&G companies will continue to have an increased spread as we are reaching a tipping point of senior level professionals retiring without enough talent to backfill those roles. There is no replacement for experience and leadership is continued to be looked upon to develop the junior level professionals as well and as quickly as possible. A solid track record of successful mentorship will win any senior leader the role of choice as this is one of the biggest obstacles facing the industry overall.
An issue that is facing many operators has been the lack of capacity from the service companies serving the high growth regions. As I had stated earlier, there have been a few areas that were in consistent growth that as they began to explode and the rush of new operators entered the regions, the existing service assets have exceeded capacity. For non-degreed and degreed professionals, the high growth areas I have mentioned allow for immediate employment should the service based companies be a route of choice for your career. We do not cover the service industry at a high volume level, but when many professionals reach out to us either entry level or non-degreed who want to get into the Oil & Gas industry, this is the direction we usually point them towards.
Looking at what positions exist today that were not being sought after ten years ago is a harder one to evaluate. Where many clients seek specific capabilities for their roles, it generally comes from a professional who has 20+ years of experience. That fact alone takes away from the ten year question. What we are seeing is a greater demand in related industries that serve Oil & Gas. Technology development has come to the forefront of the service industry as we have seen a substantial growth in software development to serve measurement and reporting at the well site. We have also seen a substantial growth in technology where it can be applied to the midstream or transportation industries. These are specifically important to newer areas of development that can only be serviced by truck for product transportation as the asset field development is new and pipeline infrastructure has not reached those areas. The additional increases in job growth apply to the midstream piece of the industry as well. An overwhelming amount of new construction is being brought about by these developers but so often many of these developers may be coming from closely related industries, but not Oil & Gas. This has increased the number of opportunities for senior level professionals with substantial commercial and operations experience to on-board with firms that are new to this particular specialty to bring the necessary expertise required for success in these entities. The last type of roles that we are seeing grow that may not have been so highly desired in the past, would be in Health, Safety & Environmental. This has also caused many organizations to adjust some of the requirements on the traditional roles such as Drilling, Production and Operational Leadership. Many companies will closely evaluate how these leaders were educated on HSE matters and in many cases, can be a determining factor in whether or not he/she will land the job.
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