The decade-long oil bust that began in the early 1980s wiped out two generations of energy professionals.
The extended drought scared away existing and prospective workers as other sectors grew.
Improved technology and drilling techniques have created a resurgence in the field in recent years, but the long decline has created staffing challenges for companies throughout the oil patch.
Most exploration and production companies have a strong number of employees in their 50s and older.
Heavy recruiting on college campuses throughout the region has led to a rapidly growing number of employees in their 20s and early 30s.
But few employees fill the 20-year gap in between.
The result is that some young employees with just a few years of experience have quickly advanced to become senior managers. In other cases, quality employees find themselves with managers who are their age or even a few years younger, making career advancement more difficult.
While companies throughout the industry are struggling to meet this challenge, industry trade groups are facing perhaps an even greater challenge.
I attended the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association (OIPA) annual meeting earlier this month. The organization has been in existence for 57 years and has faced similar challenges as the industry it represents.
Most members fit the demographics of the broader oil and natural gas industry, except that the association hasn't attracted active participation from the droves of young people that the industry has recruited.
OIPA and other industry groups are trying to change that.
The association has been actively recruiting to its Future Leaders Program, including inviting young professionals to its annual conference and encouraging them to attend meetings.
The group even held a modified beer pong tournament as part of its annual meeting as a fun meet-and-greet for those who attended.
Kit Watson works for Gore Nitrogen in Seiling. He attended the conference and participated in the tournament.
“I'm here not only just to further my career, but also for the industry — to find out what I can do for it to keep it going, to keep it strong in Oklahoma,” he said.
Other energy associations have a similar goal.
OIPA's Future Leaders Program, the OKC Society of Petroleum Engineers Young Professionals and the OKC Young Professionals in Energy have teamed up to hold a conference next month for energy professionals.
If you go
The OKC Young Professionals in Energy forum will be July 19 at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City. For more information and to sign up, go to okcypenergyforum2012.eventbrite.com.