Petroleum Recruiting - A Story of Diminishing Reserves
- John M. Campbell (Council Of Education, The U. Of Oklahoma)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- June 1967
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 737 - 740
- 1967. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 7.4.4 Energy Policy and Regulation, 6.1.5 Human Resources, Competence and Training
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Editor's Note: The following comments by John M. Campbell, 1967 Chairman of the AIME Council of Education, were made before the council during the Annual AIME Meeting held in Los Angeles, Calif., Feb. 19-23, 1967. Campbell, long concerned with the increasing problem of recruiting sufficient numbers of qualified petroleum engineers, outlines a plan for re-establishing the petroleum industry's competitive bargaining position in the engineering manpower market. The plan requires imagination and forceful action, but above all it calls for a most basic and much desired element-full industry involvement. Although Campbell's remarks are directed specifically to the problems of the petroleum industry, they could well apply to all segments of the mineral industries affiliated with AIME.
The recruiting trails during the fall of 1966 literally could be called a "trail of tears". Interview lists were sparse and in too many cases the number of recruiters almost exceeded recruitees. I, along with many other professors, have been questioned about this. A common question often takes the form, "We have a fellowship (or scholarship) here; why don't the boys interview us?" There are then questions about company image, etc. A stock and somewhat flip answer is, "What boys?" The majority of the relatively few students available are on a company fellowship and/or have worked for a company during summers. They have little motivation to waste their time interviewing with such an arrangement.
Non-petroleum engineers are rather nonchalant about the petroleum industry. Electronics, nuclear areas, aerospace and the like are new (and presumably glamorous). With solar and nuclear energy, electric cars, etc., on the horizon, they regard petroleum as in the process of going the way of the whale oil industry. We're just one more phase in man's energy development. The best interviewer in the world must be very lucky indeed if he can undo several years of brainwashing along this line in a 15- to 30-minute interview.
Declining Ability to Compete
There are no simple answers. What we are seeing is a symptom of an almost cancerous-like, slow but nevertheless inexorable decay in the competitive position of all mineral industries for manpower. This is not a cry of gloom. Rather, it is an appeal to follow an old athletic adage, "always change a losing game".
In 1959, I forecast the current situation but suffered the worst possible fate-being ignored. Since that time both industry and educators have had a kind of optimistic complacency. When the number of petroleum engineering students plummeted, regret was expressed but the common byword was that this would be temporary. In the meantime, other engineering disciplines would simply fill the slack. Superficially, this sounded good. Practically, it was doomed to failure.
This was discussed at the AIME meeting in Los Angeles in Feb., 1967, by both the Council of Education and during an all-institute manpower conference. Almost everyone admitted the existence of the problem, but there was little agreement concerning its severity or the method(s) by which it could be alleviated. As chairman of the Council of Education I feel I have an obligation to propose a plan in the hope that it will trigger discussion and move things off center. My hope is that it will lead to discussion and subsequent action, and not simply be ignored.
A Perplexing Jigsaw Puzzle
The decline in the nation's technical manpower has been a gradual thing. The National Science Foundation estimates that the demand for engineers and scientists will exceed the supply by 250,000 between now and 1970. Some companies are apparently recognizing this. According to the Jan. 6, 1967, issue of Readers Digest, E. I. DuPont de Nemours and Co. sought 25 percent of all chemical engineers graduating in 1966. Xerox Corp. assigned 80 managers to recruit 100 technical people, and General Dynamics, Inc., gave a bonus of $250 to each employee who lured an engineer or scientist to join the firm. Our industries even hired 5,000 engineers and scientists from abroad this past year. Is it too surprising that petroleum's old fashioned recruiting methods are failing?
To make a long and complex story fairly short, our ever-growing manpower problems could be attributed to the following major factors.
1. Engineering no longer has the status it once enjoyed (total engineering enrollments have not kept pace).
2. The petroleum industry no longer has the relative status it once enjoyed, particularly in the so-called "oil areas" (competitive position for a lesser supply of men has declined).
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