Strategy, Technology, and Current Issues in the
Energy Overview / Current Issues in Energy
Susan Smith Nash, Ph.D.
Shortages of qualified personnel.
Beginning in the mid-1980s, when commodities prices collapsed and
the industry went through decades of consolidation, hiring
virtually stopped. As a result, there was a 20-year gap, and many
of the survivors of that time are now approaching retirement
age. Further, technology is changing at a rapid rate, which
makes it difficult to achieve short-term solutions to the talent
gap. An inherent volatility makes it difficult to attract
individuals to the field. As a result, there are projected to be
huge shortages of labor when the most experienced individuals
The “great crew change” has been anticipated for around 10 years,
and it is occurring, but not necessarily in the way that was
expected or projected. There is not as much concern about
knowledge transfer as expected; instead the service companies and
research consortia are meeting the gap.
The challenge extends across the organizations, but primarily in
the fields of science, engineering, and systems that are specific
to the energy industry. Human resources shortages are most
pronounced in the oil and gas industry; coal, electricity,
alternative energy, etc. did not undergo 15 years of depressed
The quest to find replacements for the senior-level engineers and
geoscientists who are retiring has begun. Companies are bridging
the knowledge and experience gap by encouraging retiring engineers
to continue to consult. Complicating the issue is the emergence of
new technologies in all aspects of the industry, from upstream, to
midstream and downstream.
Companies often comment that they need to hire experienced,
now-retired oil and gas professionals to mentor students, who do
not know how oil and gas operations should be run. While
universities do offer petroleum-focused courses in engineering,
geology, and geophysics, the truth is, that they often do not
include training in the day-to-day work of an oil and gas
professional. Colleges and universities could build new courses
and offer mentoring, but there is often not a budget for it, and
further, the proposed courses do not / might not align with
curriculum / accreditation requirements.
“The ‘Great Crew Change” Sweeps Across Companies that Rely on
Skilled Worker Shortage Threatens $US 100 Billion in U.S. Energy
Report shows training and development critical for “great crew
53% of respondents revealed that a lack of training and
development opportunities would lead them to consider leaving an
Training and development was highlighted as a critical
factor in choosing an employer, with 75% saying it was important
in their choice of role, and over half (53%) saying they would
consider leaving an employer if they did not get the training and
development opportunities they required. 37% felt that a lack of
training and development in previous roles has held them back in
What is the “great crew change”?
What caused the “great crew change”?
What can companies do to minimize the impact of the mass exodus of
skilled, experienced technical personnel?Shortages of qualified