"The impending 'Big Crew Change' is a seismic shift looming over the oil and gas industry, where the reins of leadership will pass from the 'calculators and memos' generation to the 'connected and Skype' generation. As technologists, this transition holds profound implications for our field. In a blog 4 years ago, Rembrandt prophetically observes:
"The retirement of the workforce in the industry is normally referred to as “the big crew change”. People in this sector normally retire at the age of 55. Since the average age of an employee working at a major oil company or service company is 46 to 49 years old, there will be a huge change in personnel in the coming ten years, hence the “big crew change”. This age distribution is a result of the oil crises in ‘70s and ‘80s as shown in chart 1 & 2 below. The rising oil price led to a significant increase in the inflow of petroleum geology students which waned as prices decreased."
Furthermore, a Society of Petroleum Engineers study found:
“There are insufficient personnel or ‘mid-carrers’ between 30 and 45 with the experience to make autonomous decisions on critical projects across the key areas of our business: exploration, development and production. This fact slows the potential for a safe increase in production considerably”
A study undertaken by Texas Tech University make several points about the state of education and the employability of graduates during this crew change:
- Employment levels at historic lows
- 50% of current workers will retire in 6 years
- Job prospects: ~100% placement for the past 12 years
- Salaries: Highest major in engineering for new hires
The big challenge: Knowledge Harvesting. "The loss of experienced personnel combined with the influx of young employees is creating unprecedented knowledge retention and transfer problems that threaten companies’ capabilities for operational excellence, growth, and innovation." (Case Study: Knowledge Harvesting During the Big Crew Change).
In a blog by Otto Plowman, "Retaining knowledge through the Big Crew Change", we see that
"Finding a way to capture the knowledge of experienced employees is critical, to prevent “terminal leakage” of insight into decisions about operational processes, best practices, and so on. Using of optimization technology is one way that producers can capture and apply this knowledge.When the retiring workforce fail to convey the important (critical) lessons learned, the gap is filled by data warehouses, knowledge systems, adaptive intelligence, and innovation."
When the retiring workforce fail to convey the important (critical) lessons learned, the gap is filled by data warehouses, knowledge systems, adaptive intelligence, and innovation. Perhaps the biggest challenge is innovation. Innovation will drive the industry through the next several years. Proactive intelligence, coupled with terabyte upon terabyte of data will form the basis.
The future: the nerds will take over from the wildcatter.