E&Y poll shows generational, gender divide in oil and gas career perceptions

While 51% of adults would be happy if their child chose a career in oil and gas, just 26% of Generation Z and 45% of Millennials without a set career path find industry jobs appealing, according to Ernst & Young LLP’s US Oil and Gas Perception poll.

A majority from the younger generation also perceives oil and gas jobs as blue-collar, dangerous, and physically demanding. Just 10% of Gen Z respondents and 13% of Millennials mentioned “engineer” when asked for a typical oil and gas job that comes to mind, while just 22% of Gen Z and 26% of Millennials responded with a specific white-collar position.

When asked why they found an oil and gas career unappealing, more than 40% of the Gen Z respondents said it simply did not interest them. Another major reason mentioned was their awareness of environmental issues, with 23% saying the industry was bad for the environment in some way. On the other hand, 66% of teens said they found a job working in green energy appealing.

Deborah Byers, E&Y US energy leader, believes that younger generations’ perceptions of oil and gas are leading them to other industries. “There are a couple of contributing factors to these views: a disconnect between what oil and gas executives think young people want from a career and what they actually want, a lack of awareness about the industry and the careers that power it, and a substantial gender gap,” she explained. “Young women’s views on jobs in oil and gas are particularly concerning.”

The industry’s lack of job appeal among young people is largely driven by the degree to which young women find oil and gas jobs unappealing, the survey indicates. Just 24% of women between ages 16 and 35 find industry jobs appealing, while 54% of men in the same age range find them appealing.

Young men found every oil and gas job category more appealing than young women did, and the gap was especially large in earth sciences, IT, physical sciences, and engineering. The gap was less pronounced in green energy, 78% vs. 69%, and corporate, 65% vs. 56%.

When asked which three considerations are the most important in selecting a future career, both Millennials and Gen Z as a whole prioritized salary, 56%, good work-life balance, 49%, job stability, 37%, and on-the-job happiness, 37%.

In contrast, oil and gas executives expected the leading career drivers for young people to be salary, 72%, technology, 43%, good work-life balance, 38%, and the opportunity to try new roles, 28%.

Executives also seem unconvinced of the industry’s ability to deliver some of the leading factors that attract young people to a career. While 92% of executives agreed salary is a strength of the industry, 37% said good work-life balance is an industry weakness and 61% said job stability is an industry weakness.

The poll, conducted in first-quarter 2017, comprised 1,204 American consumers ages 16 and older, including 1,004 Americans aged 19 and older and 200 Americans aged 16 to 18, as well as 109 oil and gas executives based in North America.

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