The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Energy Careers Today and Tomorrow

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted July 19, 2017

As America’s natural gas and oil companies continue to develop their workforce of the future, they’ve got a great story to tell. Make that stories – of opportunity, cutting-edge technologies and key contributions toward environmental goals, just to name three.

The competition for those workers will be vigorous. A recent survey by EY indicated some younger Americans can learn more about how natural gas and oil companies and refiners are developing the energy that our country will need for decades to come – safely and responsibly. Discussing the important contributions industry and its employees are making to Americans’ quality of life will address questions some may have. Marty Durbin, API executive vice president and chief strategy officer, in a recent interview with Bloomberg:

“Millennials are interested in innovative, high technology industries. If they don’t have that view of our industry, we have the opportunity to change that. If you want to go into high-tech engineering, look at our industry.”

Engaging future workers starts with talking about energy and opportunity. We know that natural gas and oil power the U.S. economy and empower Americans’ lives today and will do so tomorrow.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) 2017 Annual Energy Outlook shows natural gas and oil supply more than 60 percent of the energy we use today, and it projects they will supply more than 60 percent of our energy in 2040:


America’s natural gas and oil needs will continue to drive the need for engineers, scientists, analysts, gas and oilfield crews and more, for decades to come. Our industry features advanced technologies for finding and developing energy. And, because of workforce demographics, there will be significant opportunity for younger Americans – especially minorities and women – to capitalize on the expected “crew change,” a seven- to 10-year period when about half of the industry’s technical personnel will retire.

An IHS report estimated that by 2035, Hispanics and African Americans would hold nearly 40 percent of the 1.9 million direct jobs in the natural gas and oil and petrochemicals industries, with 16 percent of the jobs being held by women. IHS projected that Hispanic workers will account for more than 576,000 jobs, African Americans more than 131,000 jobs and women about 290,000 jobs. Durbin said this is a big focus of industry’s recruitment strategy:

“We started to reach out to different demographics—women, veterans, minorities—to educate them on what the industry does and to learn what would pique their interest.”

A number of these positions will go to Americans who’re educated in the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – which industry is supporting through investments in local communities. Here’s a video we shared previously about a program that brings fabrication labs to students around the country.

It’s just one example of the way natural gas and oil companies are supporting the education and training of tomorrow’s skilled industry workers, preparing them for stable, well-paying careers.

They’ll be entering an industry sector that has a strong and ever-improving record for worker safety. The injury and illness rate for the natural gas and oil industry fell 45 percent from 2006-2015 – even as new jobs were being added – and our industry’s rate is well below the average for the entire U.S. private sector:


Meanwhile, internationally recognized standards serve to formalize industry safety practices that protect everyone from the consumer to workers to the environment and public. It’s a big part of industry’s ongoing effort to partner with communities that are near energy operations.

Through its Global Industry Services, API maintains more than 700 standards covering all industry segments that are designed to make operations safer for workers, nearby communities and the environment. These were developed through a process accredited by the American National Standards Institute, the body that accredits similar programs at several U.S. national laboratories. These are widely cited in government regulations: 130 standards are cited 430 times by federal agencies, including the Coast Guard and EPA; 240 standards are cited more than 4,100 times in state regulations.

Industry’s commitment to protect the environment is achieving significant results. EPA data shows a downward trajectory in emissions of key pollutants, occurring alongside increases in economic output, vehicle miles traveled and population. According to EPA, carbon emissions from the generation of electricity are near 30-year lows, largely because of increased use of cleaner-burning natural gas by the power sector.

Bottom line: America’s natural gas and oil industry is an important part of U.S. progress toward climate goals – while supplying most of the energy needed to keep our modern economy moving.

That’s the context for a few words about EY’s survey of 16- to 19-year-old members of Generation Z and millennials between the approximate ages of 20 and 35 (as well as oil industry executives). Consultant EY said the result indicates a number of Gen Z members have a negative perception of industry and what it would be like to work in it. Conversely, majorities of millennials connected the oil and natural gas industry with positive attributes, including the use of advanced technology, offering opportunities for growth, providing long-term financial stability and offering jobs of the future.

For those of us in industry, the takeaway is that there’s certainly more to be communicated with some younger Americans about energy realities – how integral natural gas and oil are to every-day life and future achievement, and what it takes to keep the U.S. well-supplied and secure. There’s also more to be communicated about working in industry and its positive safety and environmental records.

To the extent some may hold misperceptions about energy and our industry, we’re focused on working to change them by pointing out the facts as laid out above.


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.