Oil Industry Frets About Recruiting Its Next Generation of Workers

Two years out of college, Leah Sanders was making as much as $19,000 a month servicing oil wells in Kuwait. After getting laid off in May by oil-field services giant Schlumberger Ltd., she’s back with her parents in Tennessee, earning $15 an hour helping out at her father’s construction business. She recently began considering switching careers and going to law school.

“I don’t think it’s going to recover as fast as I hoped it would,” said Ms. Sanders, 24. “Do you want to wait and go back to something that you spent two years training in? Or do you want to start over?”

The economic crisis caused by the pandemic, combined with a growing distaste for the oil business among potential young employees, is creating a new problem for the industry.

Energy giants including Chevron Corp. and BP PLC are trying to avoid creating a generational gap in their staffs—a problem they’ve faced in previous downturns—that could make it more difficult to tackle industry-changing competition from renewable energy and electric vehicles.

Muqsit Ashraf, who leads the energy practice at consulting firm Accenture PLC, said he often asks energy CEOs what keeps them up at night. A few years ago, many cited the race to secure drilling locations. Now, as executives stare down a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, it’s “How do I find new talent that I need to reinvent myself?” Mr. Ashraf said.