Remote Working Environments, Innovative Equipment, Environmental Friendliness Key To Petroleum Careers


Today, half a million people work in the oil and gas industry in Canada, in 12 of the 13 provinces, and more than 3,000 products we use on a daily basis are made from petroleum products, such as gasoline, motor oil, diesel, jet fuel, asphalt, synthetic rubber, plastics, fertilizers, antifreeze, medicines, natural gas and propane – even make-up, bubble gum and polar fleece!

With about 9,000 new wells being drilled each year and baby boomers scheduled to retire in significant numbers over the next decade, the industry needs the energy and expertise of Canadian students and recent grads to continue its in-demand work.

Heather Swenson, a human resources representative at National Oilwell Varco, says there is a broad range of experiences and opportunities in the industry right now in Canada and around the world.


Q. Why is now the ideal time for Canadian students and recent graduates to begin their careers in the petroleum industry?
A. Now is a time where we are in an industry that is dynamic, with continuous technological innovations, exploration into new and exciting territories, and offers a huge diversity in the different segments that define the petroleum industry.  This makes for a great opportunity for graduates because of the broad range of experiences and opportunities that exist within this industry, as well as the opportunities that are created by the growth of the industry both in Canada and globally.


Q. What do you think is the best part about working in the industry?
A. I think it’s exciting to see an industry where people from many different areas come together to work toward a common goal, whether it be providing our customer with a new and exciting rig package, or developing an innovative way to service equipment that is more efficient, and more importantly safer for all involved.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world, from those who have years of experience in the field, have dedicated hours to researching new materials for our products, and even those who can explain the inner workings of an IT infrastructure.


Q. What do you think are the biggest misconceptions young Canadians tend to have about the industry, and how would you address those misconceptions?
A. I think the biggest misconception is that the industry is “old school.”  What I mean by that is that young Canadians think that we have old equipment, operate in dirty environments, and that you have to be mechanically inclined or have experience on a drilling rig to work in this industry.

I try to address this misconception through demonstrating actual examples of the innovations we have brought to the industry – whether through print, video, or an actual tour of a facility.  For example, because of advancements in the industry, and the equipment we provide, drillers now sit in a climate-controlled environment and use a joystick and computer monitors to perform many of their job duties.

“We have rigs that can crawl, walk, be skidded, and ones with giant tires that can be pulled, which saves on cost to tear down and set up.”

Many problems can now be inspected using multiple video cameras installed on rigs, instead of sending a person to try and locate the problem.  We have rigs that can crawl, walk, be skidded, and ones with giant tires that can be pulled, which saves on cost to tear down and set up.  Furthermore, these advancements create rigs that are safer and involve much less hands on work.

We also supply rigs that are used for geothermal energy, and not just traditional energy sources (oil and gas).  We are truly committed to continuous improvement.

Another common misconception is that the industry is harmful to the environment.  I would counter that with a description of how a well site is planned and the reclamation process, which is also planned right down to how many trees need to be replanted to leave the land as it was before the well was drilled.

I would also explain that we have entire divisions who’s core business is based on refurbishing, and essentially ‘recycling’ used products, such as oil country tubulars, so that they may be reused over and over again, thus reducing the amount of new products and materials entering the industry, and correspondingly reducing the amount of waste, or scrap produced.


Q. What is the student or recent grad experience like at National Oilwell Varco?
A. Most of the opportunities at NOV are co-op or new grad. Our co-op placements are mainly within our engineering groups, and typically in the areas of mechanical or electrical engineering. During their co-op, the student will have a chance to work with our engineering team on a variety of projects, for example doing design work for a downhole motor, or working with our rig solutions team on new drawworks.

Our new grad experiences are either direct hire – where the new graduate is hired into a permanent position within a specific division, or through our Next Gen program, which is a rotational program. In the Next Gen program, the new grad will go through four three-month rotations in four different divisions and functional areas within our company. At the end of the rotational year, the Next Gen is placed into their permanent position based on a mutual fit within the organization. More information can be found on our website.


Q. What advice would you give to a college or university student or recent graduate who is now interested in working in the industry?
A. Have an open mind, and be willing to learn.  A new grad who starts with us, works hard, and takes every opportunity to learn will be exposed to a multitude of different product lines and functionalities within our company.  The industry is so diverse that no matter what specific degree or background, there is the chance for everyone to discover what they are passionate about.


Q. What is one thing that a student or recent grad can do to help them be successful in this industry?
A. My advice would be do a little bit of research and find out what areas of the industry interest them.  Each new grad will have a different set of skills that might be a better fit for drilling, or completion or the production stages.  Learn a little bit more about the industry and how the stages move from exploration to production – it’s probably more interesting than you’d think!
Everything you need to know about hatching a career in oil and gas
TalentEgg’s Petroleum Career Guide and this editorial feature were produced in partnership with the Petroleum Labour Market Information (PetroLMI) Division of Enform. For more information about starting your career in the oil and gas industry, please visit


Photo credit: Ocean Star Drilling Rig by Ed Schipul on Flickr
About the author

Cassandra Jowett is TalentEgg's Content Manager. She joined the team as a student intern in the summer of 2008, and since then her heart has never really left the Egg Carton. Cassandra is a recent graduate of the Ryerson University School of Journalism, where she earned a Bachelor of Journalism with a focus in writing and editing for newspapers. She has also written and edited for The Globe and Mail, The National Post, t.o.night newspaper and other publications.