Overcoming the oil and gas industry’s challenge attracting young, bright new workers

It might sound implausible, given the painful current downturn in Canadian oil and gas, but Laura Hambley Lovett is concerned about a labour shortage the industry could face in as little as 18 months.

Hambley, who holds a PhD in industrial organizational psychology from the University of Calgary, is the founder of Leadership Success Group and Calgary Career Counselling, a role which gives her insights into workplace trends and issues.

“I’m really concerned about a shortage of people in our industry in the next 18 to 24 months,” said Hambley, who has 10 psychologists working for her in Calgary and has offices in Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria and Oakville.

“I believe there will be a recovery in the industry in that time and I’m concerned that the industry won’t be able to attract the people it needs.”

That’s one of the reasons she has helped organize the upcoming Oil & Gas Beyond Boomers forum, to be held on Feb. 6 at the Calgary Petroleum Club.

The event is aimed at attracting younger generations of workers to consider working in oil and gas.

“We’re really excited about the discussions,” Hambley said. “There will be a lot of younger industry professionals who will come.”

The event is being organized by Canadian Energy Executive Association (CEEA), which has evolved over 69 years and now has three prongs to its DNA, she said: advocating for the Canadian energy industry, promoting business and social networking, and raising money for children’s charities.

The Oil & Gas Beyond Boomers event is likely to play an important role in CEEA’s ongoing activities as well, since it has already attracted a great deal of interest.

As Hambley sees it, the industry’s challenge attracting bright young people is a growing concern.

“How do you attract people to an industry which many younger people view negatively?” she asked. “How do you convince them the Canadian oil and gas industry leads the world in terms of environmentally responsible development?”

The mindset of many younger Canadians is that the fossil fuel sector doesn’t have much of a future, she said.

They view the renewable power sector positively, by contrast, not recognizing that fossil fuel development will be key to Canada’s future prosperity, or the incredible opportunity that exists to help continue reducing its environmental footprint.

But Hambley says that’s not the only challenge the industry faces in terms of recruitment.

“Young people aren’t going into the oil and gas business because of the ups and downs,” she said. “This recession has been brutal.”

Too often the companies involved in the industry have reacted to the downturn by “streamlining” and cutting staffing to the core.

The industry needs to “treat people like human beings,” she said.

The underlying theme of this year’s forum is Peace, Love and Energy, which reflects her attitude (and is a throwback to Woodstock, the high point of the Boomer era, and CEAA’s 69th anniversary year).

Hambley and her husband, CEAA’s Chair Scott Lovett, an executive with Baytex Energy, will be among the participants in the event. It will feature a number of speakers from the industry, including Celine Gerson, president of Schlumberger Canada, Deanna Burgart, an indigenous woman and engineer, who is a consultant on Indigenous issues and the energy sector, and Giselle Kovary, an expert on attracting and engaging younger generations to the workplace.

Click here for more information and to buy tickets.

JWN

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