Leaders of today must do their part to develop tomorrow’s work force
“If you want happiness for a lifetime, help the next generation.” – Ancient proverb
As the industry’s “old crew” begins to retire and pass the torch to the next generation, it remains to be seen whether the young professionals of today will be ready to meet the challenges of tomorrow. However, one thing is already certain: If they are not, the fault won’t be theirs alone.
As the leaders of today, are we doing what it takes to get them ready? Are we doing enough to pass on our knowledge, build their experience and develop their technical skills?
It’s been well established that this industry will face tremendous difficulties and challenges over the next several decades as it tries to meet the world’s growing energy demands. If we want the industry to succeed, long after we’re gone, then as IADC’s 2010 chairman Louis Raspino said during his opening remarks at the IADC/SPE Drilling Conference, “Now is the time to refocus.”
The good news is that the industry appears to have been recruiting during the last boom cycle. Polls taken during the plenary sessions at the recent Drilling Conference showed that roughly 20% of the audience had fewer than five years of experience. That’s an encouraging sign that not only is new blood being brought into our work force, but today’s leaders recognizes the value of sending young people to learning events like the Drilling Conference.
It is up to today’s industry leaders to nurture its new talent. Most companies already have formal training programs in place, which is a good start. Yet we must also create opportunities to informally cultivate young professionals. Some of the most valuable wisdoms and knowledge that we can share will likely be passed down not in a training class but through casual conversation.
If your company doesn’t have a formal mentoring program in place, take a look around your office at the young people who work with you or for you. They might learn more from an 30-minute chat with you than from a full day of classroom training looking at PowerPoint slides.
It’s not always easy to explain to someone of a different generation the things that you seem to know just by intuition – some of that they will just have to learn by themselves by making dumb mistakes, the way we did. But don’t underestimate young people either. They’re smart, they want to learn, and they’re eager to make meaningful contributions.
The drilling industry will doubtlessly survive through the next decades, if only because the world can’t live without petroleum. But whether the industry will thrive, whether the next generation will be able to build on the progress and legacies of the previous generations – and do it with zero injuries – that will partly depend on the actions of the “old crew” now.
Will we overcome obstacles to recruiting and training such as short-term costs and market downturns? Will we follow through on our commitment to invest in people? Now is the time to refocus.