Plainly put, oil- and gas-related companies need people working in a wide array of jobs in order to get the oil and gas out of the ground and then to market.
A panel of industry experts discussed this topic at the Eagle Ford Consortium Conference on April 23.
Johnnie Howard, area sales manager for Weatherford, said people are sorely needed at this time.
“The explosion in the market here and the workforce that we had and the experience we had has been diluted,” Howard said. “Finding new people that have the competencies and the skills required for driving... We have to drive. We’ve got to drive equipment—commercial motor vehicles. Having people with those skills and knowledge—the driving piece—would be a huge advantage.”
Because the Eagle Ford Shale region, which spans 20 Texas counties, is such a huge area, keeping coverage of that area is proving to be a difficult challenge, he said.
“It is a huge area,” Howard said. “Bigger than most the states on the eastern seaboard when you combine them together. What we are trying to do is make up for the lack of people, because you can’t be everywhere—trying to get people to adopt technology. Everybody wants to have boots on the ground, and there are a lot of times when you can use technology to save time.”
Smartphones, software and GPS applications can be better used throughout the industry to be more efficient and to maximize human resources, Howard explained.
Drivers that get lost, for example, is a waste of a valuable resource, Howard said, adding that it has been hard for companies to get workers to embrace and use these new technologies.
Michael Garcia, director of human resources for Lewis Energy, said the biggest challenge for his company is finding skilled workers to meet the labor demands across the Eagle Ford right now.
“We went from 300 employees in 2010 and we now have 1,300 employees,” Garcia said. “The biggest gap that we have seen is that initially we brought in a lot of folks with great experience within the oilfield to kind of help train the local workforce, but that local workforce had zero to no experience. We are trying to make up for that gap in experience to try to get them up to speed. We went from a ramp-up stage to implementation, and now we are trying to optimize our workforce.”
Training, development, motivation and retention are key factors, he said.
Beyond the greatest challenge of finding qualified people to work the ever growing number of jobs, there are other challenges, as well.
“I think a huge challenge for us is to ensure that we do business and not have another significant incident that puts a black eye on our industry,” said Donald Kaminski with Allied Oilfield Services. “People talk about the oilfield and how dangerous it is. Yeah, there are dangerous things out there. There are dangerous things every day when we get out of bed.”
Kaminsky said that companies need to focus on new ways to reduce hazards and risks wherever it is possible.
Turnover is a significant issue, Steve Webb with Allied Oilfield Services said, explaining that it is becoming more and more difficult to keep workers in their positions for long periods of time.
“All of us—we have many opportunities,” Webb said. “We have many positions that need to be filled within our organizations, so we are still looking for people—every day.”
Garcia said one challenge is in educating the community about the lifespan of the play, itself.
“Drilling will be around for so many years, service companies will be around for so many years in this area. What we want to look at is where should we invest our time and effort with the local communities to make sure there are opportunities for the local communities in the long term. We see, really, our workforce is right now in the elementary, middle schools and high schools.”
“Lewis (Energy) has made a commitment to partner with certain organizations and community colleges, as well. We have participated in several STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) events, as well, to educate the youth about these opportunities.”
Partnering with schools and colleges is an important way to work now to develop a workforce that will be ready for the needs of Eagle Ford companies 10 to 20 years from now, Garcia said.
With activity and production that may continue through the year 2050, Garcia said, now is the time to plan ahead.
“The only way we are going to be able to sustain that, is by, of course, making sure our youth is prepared to come up and be our future workforce and get them excited about those opportunities that we actually have here.”