More than 360 young energy professionals from throughout the state met at the Sheraton in downtown Oklahoma City on Thursday to learn more about both the oil and natural gas industry and the opportunities within the sector.
The industry downturn from the late 1970s through the early 2000s led an entire generation to run as far away from oil and gas as they could.
“My dad begged me not to come back to this industry,” said Roe Patterson, senior vice president and chief operating officer at Midland, Texas-based Basic Energy Services.
He didn't listen, and now he's glad he didn't.
Improved technology and drilling techniques have led to a renewed focus on finding and developing oil and natural gas throughout the United States and Canada over the past decade. With that boom, the industry has created tens of thousands of energy jobs in Oklahoma alone.
Energy companies have flooded university campuses throughout the country searching for young, quality geologists, geophysicists, engineers and accountants.
“Not too long ago, I thought my generation would turn out the lights on the industry as we retired,” said Jeff Hume, Continental Resources' vice chairman of strategic growth initiatives. “But today our company has 40 years worth of drilling projects, and we're growing that every day.”
The effects of the 20-year drought are still obvious in almost every oil and gas company.
Firms of all size are filled with people who have more than 25 years of industry experience and recent college graduates with fewer than seven years of experience.
But very few people in the industry fall within that range of seven to 25 years in the industry.
The trend is severe, but it will become even more significant as about 40 percent of the industry is expected to retire within the next decade.
Young professionals still in their 20s already are assuming middle management roles — and in some cases senior level positions — after only a few years in the workforce.
I served as a moderator for a portion of the Oklahoma City Young Professionals Energy Forum, leading the discussion with Devon Energy Corp. Executive Chairman Larry Nichols and a panel of executives as they challenged attendees to pay attention, work hard and focus on character as they pursue opportunities to quickly advance in their careers.
The executives warned that the industry changes rapidly, so young leaders must be flexible and remain educated on the latest technologies.