The Texas Oil and Gas Association (TXOGA) set up an online career center to help unemployed energy workers find new opportunities in the industry. The move follows more than 107,000 job losses in the oil and gas sector across the U.S. between April and August. The Texas Alliance of Energy Producers estimated that about 47,300 drilling-related workers have been let go in Texas.
The website offers workers a free review of their resume, as well as job postings and advice on retraining for career advancement. Employers who are TXOGA members receive reduced job posting rates and recruitment support.
“We are proud to be able to connect our members with the talent they need to fill some of the best jobs in Texas,” stated Todd Staples, president of TXOGA. “The Career Center is also a great resource for job seekers looking to join one of the many facets of the oil and natural gas industry.”
The career center comes at the right time for thousands of energy workers who have lost their jobs due to the economic fallout from the pandemic. Exxon Mobil became the latest oil major to announce large-scale layoffs with a plan to reduce its workforce by 1,900 across the country. Most of the job cuts will hit Houston.
“These actions will improve the company’s long-term cost competitiveness and ensure the company manages through the current unprecedented market conditions,”Exxon explained in a statement. “The impact of COVID-19 on the demand for ExxonMobil’s products has increased the urgency of the ongoing efficiency work.”
Other major layoffs include Chevron’s planned cut of 6,000 jobs, BP’s elimination of 10,000 positions, and Shell’s reduction of its workforce by 9,000.Almost 700 Chevron employees were laid off on October 23 in Houston.
The decision to cut back on staffing and operational costs is likely to make it challenging for many laid-off workers to find new employment.
According to a report by global consultancy firm Deloitte, many of the jobs lost this year are unlikely to return for some time. The report characterized the energy sector’s situation as a “great compression” driven by reduced demand, low prices, and the growth of clean energy.
Deloitte’s business-as-usual scenario predicts oil prices will recover to around $45 per barrel. However, this prediction also estimates 70 percent of the jobs lost since March will not return by the end of 2021.
The consultants’ pessimistic scenario, which has oil falling back to $35 per barrel, would result in 97 percent of job losses not coming back by the end of next year. Even the most optimistic projection, with oil rising to $55 a barrel, would result in almost one quarter of the workers who have left the industry not returning over the coming 15 months.
The TXOGA’s career platform aims to keep talented professionals in the oil and gas sector. This industry will need these employees to sustain growth when more favorable conditions return. However, energy companies increasingly have to compete with other economic areas that could attract workers prepared for a career change.
Some workers may have little choice but to look elsewhere. The Wall Street Journal recently reported on the case of Leah Sanders. Sanders is an engineer who graduated two years ago and was earning $19,000 a month before being laid off from oil services firm Schlumberger. Now, she is working for $15 an hour for her father’s construction business. It is unlikely that workers such as Sanders will be willing to wait several years in hopes of an oil and gas rebound.
Jeff Spath, head of the petroleum engineering department at Texas A&M, said that only one third of last spring’s engineering graduates got a job.
Many skilled graduates and laid-off workers will look to alternatives, such as employment in the renewable and electric vehicle industries. Tesla, for example, is expected to hire up to 65,000 additional employees by the end of the year. According to a recent survey, engineering students ranked Tesla as their most desirable employer.
One advantage the clean energy sector has over oil and gas is stability. While oil jobs pay well, the pandemic has made it clear that many of them depend on how high the oil price is.
“You just have a straight sort of linear trend in most of those occupations, not the wild fluctuations you have in oil,” said labor economist Julia Pollak.
Jordan Smith is a freelance journalist and translator covering issues related to energy, the environment, and politics. His work has appeared on the independent news site Opposing Views, and at the Canadian Labour Institute.