We’ve got three words for you: Technology. Sustainability. Mobility.
Those are the top three reasons now is a really exciting time for students and recent grads to start careers in the oil and gas industry, according to Petroleum Labour Market Information (PetroLMI) Division of Enform CEO and Executive Director Cheryl Knight.
“I think what I find most interesting is how much of a role technology is playing in creating changes in the industry.” —Cheryl Knight, CEO and Executive Director, Petroleum Labour Market Information (PetroLMI) Division of Enform
Cheryl knows the industry better than anyone, perhaps, so we asked her to tell us what she thinks the most exciting things about the petroleum sector are right now.
“I think what I find most interesting is how much of a role technology is playing in creating changes in the industry,” she says. “Changes including how the work is done, how the production of oil and gas happens, and what the jobs are. We are seeing that technology and being technology proficient is really important part of the industry.”
She cites the development of Alberta’s oil sands as an example: in past, operations in the oil sands were primarily mining operations – large shovels would dump the oil sand into trucks to be taken to be crushed and processed into oil. This method is slow and inefficient, and can only extract oil sand up to 75 metres below ground.
Today, more than 80% of oil sands development uses in-situ drilling – a thermal technology known as steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD). The high-tech SAGD process allows petroleum producers to access reserves that are much deeper in the earth and recover a higher percentage of the oil contained in the sand. “The reason [the oil sands] is growing so big is because of the technology,” Cheryl says.
Another example is the use of directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing. “It enables the industry to use one very expensive, highly technologically-advanced rig and rig pad, reducing the surface impact,” she says. “You have one rig that spends a lot of time drilling in a variety of directions while it stays in the same place. The rig doesn’t move.”
All of this high-tech equipment requires specialized technicians, technologists and skilled tradespeople to build, operate and maintain it, creating many new jobs for people with the most up-to-date education and technical skills.
No, sustainability is not a four-letter word in oil and gas. In fact, says Cheryl, environmental sustainability has woven itself into every single job in the industry.
“I don’t go anywhere or to any meeting where people in the industry aren’t aware of the footprint on the land – they’re concerned about things like carbon emissions and water consumption,” she says. “It’s part of our industry – the environment is part of oil and gas.”
As interest in environmental sustainability within the petroleum sector grows, so does the demand for people who are qualified to help oil and gas companies monitor, manage and improve their impact on the environment.
“These sorts of things are really opening up a variety of career opportunities,” Cheryl says. “The industry is hiring more environmental experts than ever before and there are a number of very interesting opportunities for entry level engineers.”
The discussion around sustainability and the environment also creates a greater need for regulatory, stakeholder relations and communications professionals as oil and gas producers and industry associations work and communicate with regulators, local and Aboriginal communities, and the media.
While the oil and gas sector is probably going to be where it’s at for the foreseeable future – there are over 500,000 people employed directly and indirectly in the oil and gas industry now, and it is estimated that the oil sands alone will support 905,000 jobs by 2035 – starting your career in the industry doesn’t mean you’re stuck in it (or your first job or location) forever.
“A person isn’t pigeonholing themselves by joining the oil and gas industry,” Cheryl says. “On the contrary – the skills will transfer quite well to the natural resource sector as well as government, communications and stakeholder relations organizations.”
Plus, since you will have the opportunity to work with so many different people and organizations in your oil and gas job, you’ll develop a strong professional network across a wide variety of locations and sectors that could really take you places.
“It’s really great industry; it provides a real combination of field work and office work, and I think that’s appealing to a lot of people,” she adds. “Many companies operate in multiple countries and they’re looking for people who want to travel the world while they’re working.”
Visit the Petroleum Career Guide to learn more about careers in the oil and gas industry, and find student and entry-level jobs from top petroleum employers.
Photo credit: Oil & Gas industry Strategy by Scottish Government on Flickr