Extreme Makeover Required – Guest Blog

February 21, 2012

I have met a lot of great people over the last three years during the development of this project. Support has come from so many places,with so many people offering to help het this documentary made. In November of 2011, I began working with a personal coach Cathy Anderson (www.cathyyost.com) and through Cathy I met a dynamic individual Leor Rotchild. Leor works for a major oil company in Corporate Social Responsibility, and he is engaged in the community in profound ways, from developing the environmental program for the Calgary Folk Festival, to winning a YMCA Peace medal for his work in civic engagement and corporate responsibility and sustainability.Leor was also one of the founders of the Marda Loop Justice Film Festival.

Leor and I hit it off immediately. He liked what I am doing, and I wanted to find a way to engage Leor in the project because he has a unique perspective. We have met a few times since then and are now planning a video series together that will be the first web documentary series for “Unintended Consequences”. Leor has come up with a great theme, and I am going to mentor him in making the films.

In the meantime, Leor has offered up this great article on the important role of youth in the future of the oil and gas industry, and the challenges the industry faces in attracting them.

Guest Blog By Leor Rotchild

It’s generally understood that extracting oil and gas these days requires large capital investment, technical mastery, political savvy, and effective public engagement. However, the greatest risk facing the industry relates to the most vital and common element required in the production of oil and gas: people.

To replace a retiring generation, the oil and gas sector needs an influx of youth—but many are choosing careers in industries with less tarnished reputations. This issue is highlighted in a memo recently prepared for the Prime Minister’s Privy Council Office, which reads; “The perceived negative image of the petroleum sector, especially in terms of environmental impact, has also created a barrier for workers wanting to work in the sector.”

Dr. Randy Gossen recently completed two terms as President of the World Petroleum Council (WPC), an international organization representing all aspects of the oil and gas sector. Gossen is well aware of the industry’s negative image, fuelled by growing environmental concerns. “Attracting and retaining young people is one of the key challenges facing the international petroleum industry,” he says. Dr. Gossen’s impressive legacy as outgoing WPC President will include his establishment of a Youth Committee to establish strategies for engaging other youth on energy matters.

In December 2011 at the 20th World Petroleum Congress in Doha, Qatar it was announced that Canada will play host to the 4th WPC Youth Forum. The event will bring students and young professionals from around the world to Calgary in 2013 to work towards the WPC Youth Committee’s goal of designing a sustainable future. Participants will be under the age of 35. That may not seem so young but it’s important to note that the average oil and gas employee is 50 years old.

Over the next two years, it’s estimated that the oil and gas industry will face an approximate 40% shortage of engineers and geoscientists. This could lead to hiring less qualified personnel to fill the gaps and therefore result in more safety and environmental incidents, project delays, supply shortages, and stagnant innovation. But we need significantly more innovation to address the oil and gas industry’s rising greenhouse gases, increased water usage and land disturbance affecting biodiversity.

The oil and gas sector spends approximately $5 billion a year on research and development (R&D) compared with the pharmaceuticals industry and other high tech sectors, which typically spend more than $45 billion a year. A common defense of this disparity is that most oil and gas-related R&D takes place in the field, not in a science lab. Nonetheless, a significant percentage of this “field-tested” R&D is directed towards increasing the efficiency of existing extraction processes rather than discontinuous or “game-changing” innovation.

With so many broad global energy challenges, there has never been a more urgent need for the oil and gas industry to take on more risk, collaborate and transform into an innovative, high-tech energy sector.

Youth typically see solar, fusion, geothermal, and other renewable energy sources as exciting examples of innovation. A dramatic upswing of investment into clean technologies can improve the image of the oil and gas industry and create a more innovative and attractive work environment. Developing a broad portfolio of energy sources is also a wise strategy to hedge against the fluctuating cycles of volatile commodity prices, which lead youth to believe the industry is too unstable for a long term career.

Dr. Gossen agrees that innovation and advances in technology are critical but reminds us; “The International Energy Agency is forecasting a 25% increase in demand by 2030. Even with the contribution of renewables to the energy mix, oil and gas will still constitute about 60% of our total energy consumption.”

Dr. Gossen raises an important point. 2030 looks very far away when you’re at or near the age of retirement but the generation entering the oil and gas sector now have the ability to look far beyond 2030 and influence what it will look like. That’s assuming of course they develop enough confidence to believe they have the power to influence the future.

As the baby boom generation retires, the need to fill vacant roles will be immense across all industries. Attracting and retaining young talent will require an image makeover, but youth are too savvy and mistrustful to fall for an empty public relations exercise. This makeover will have to be grounded in substance, consistent with young people’s desire for a better world. Environmental responsibility and forward-thinking energy development must become touchstones of the oil and gas industry. Mentors, global networks and experiences like the 2013 WPC Youth Forum can help young professionals develop the confidence they need to effect progressive change and drive game-changing innovations. Youth should see the energy sector as the most innovative environment to apply their skills and wild ideas to find sustainable solutions to broad energy-related challenges.

About Unintended Consequences Documentary Project

I'm Producing and directing a multi-platform documentary project on global energy called "Unintended Consequences".
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One Response to Extreme Makeover Required – Guest Blog

  1. Great posting Leor. You make a good case for oil and gas companies to evolve into energy companies — for financial stability, employee attraction and sustainability reasons.

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