Here's Why You Could Kill America's Energy Boom


Photo credit: Royal Dutch Shell

America's energy boom has enough fuel to create more than one million new jobs by 2020. That's just part of the story here. At the same time, the industry needs to back fill thousands of jobs that will be made available by its soon to be retiring workforce.

A recent article on Rigzone pointed out four major recruiting trends that were poised to plague the oil and gas industry. Two of those top trends were the shortage of talent and the industry's aging workforce. A lack of skilled workers in the future could put an abrupt end to America's energy boom, as it could cause labor costs to spiral out of control.

The aging energy workforce
Overall, the American workforce is getting older. Over the next five to ten years, half of the current workforce is expected to retire. The energy workforce is much older due to the low oil prices in the 1980s and the subsequent decline of America's energy industry. In fact, that average age of an oil and gas worker is 50. That is putting added pressure on the industry's ability to grow now that oil and gas production is booming.

One area of particular concern is skilled tradesmen such as welders. It's a profession that's expected to grow about 15% through 2020. Overall, America will need 50,000 additional welders in the decade ahead, with the energy industry being a key source of those new jobs. However, when combined with looming retirements of many of these skilled professionals, the need is even greater.

Engaging tomorrow's workforce
The upcoming "crew change" as it's being termed has energy companies looking to partner with educational institutions in an effort to get ahead of addressing this challenge. ConocoPhillips , for example, has partnered with the National Energy Education Department Project, or NEED to provide teachers with energy curriculum and training. The purpose is to engage students in energy and science and to encourage them to consider pursuing a career in the energy industry. By engaging students early, and getting them excited about energy, ConocoPhillips can potentially reap the rewards later if these students decide to pursue a career in the energy industry.

Global oil companies like Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil are making similar commitments to education, with a focus on science. Shell has been a longtime supporter of the National Science Research Center, which is implementing comprehensive and research-based science programs. Similarly, ExxonMobil has committed to supporting the National Math and Science Initiative as well as a range of other educational programs.

By engaging students in science and technology the industry can help students to identify their passions early and pursue a career and not just a job. By turning more kids on to science, the industry will have a greater candidate pool, which could enhance its ability to provide the world with more energy.

Digging deeper
A great example of this is geologists. Each year American universities produce just 430 geologists. At the same time schools are churning out more than 43,000 lawyers. There simply will not be enough geologists to meet future demand. In fact, by 2020 America will need seven thousand more geologists than are employed today, that's faster than average jobs growth of 21%. By empowering students and engaging them to help solve tomorrow's energy issues, the industry really can make a difference in our nation's future.

Final thoughts
Right now energy production in America is booming. It has us on the cusp of energy independence. That dream, however, could slip away if there are not enough skilled workers to replace those that are retiring, let alone fill the more than one million jobs the industry is poised to create. That's why it's great to see these companies investing in students now, because even if they don't pursue a career in energy, their future will be better because of the industry's involvement.

Invest in America's energy boom

Record oil and natural gas production is revolutionizing the United States' energy position. While the industry faces its share of hurdles, its making an incredible difference on America's energy future. The boom could impact your future as well. That's why the Motley Fool has prepared this special free report, "3 Stocks for the American Energy Bonanza." Don't miss out on this timely opportunity; click here to access your report -- it's absolutely free.

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Fool contributor Matt DiLallo owns shares of ConocoPhillips. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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