The current price per barrel of oil stands at approximately $30, according to Bloomberg Business. Understandably, the petroleum job market has fallen with oil prices.
“Currently we have a 7% job placement rate for graduating seniors compared to the normal 80-90% placement,” stated Petroleum Department Head Erdal Ozkan. “While this is alarming, we aren’t alone, as other schools are facing the same problem.”
“We are in uncharted water as far as the industry is concerned. Everyone always says that the market is getting better, even if it isn’t,” explained Elio Dean, a Teaching Assistant Professor in the department. “The truth is, companies are still pumping oil, and generating a surplus. As a result, the US isn’t buying as much oil and is even negotiating exporting oil. Other oil producing countries are experiencing a drop in their GDP and a drop in their currency value. It is a global problem and it is too hard to predict where prices will be.”
While many in the petroleum industry have been negatively impacted, recent graduates face a particularly difficult job market.
“Unfortunately, for students this means there are fewer jobs available and has led to a surplus of workers looking. A company looking to hire will almost always hire the person who has experience,” Dean said.
In addressing this issue of experience, the Petroleum Department will be making changes not only to the current curriculum, but offering extra course work for graduating seniors.
“The first thing that we need to address is improving the marketability of our students,” Ozkan said. “We will be providing industry standard classes for students free of charge that will focus on giving students more experience and qualification. We are also trying to get students in contact with contractors in order to provide more job opportunities and training.”
“We will also be adding on-campus internships which will be 4-6 week programs similar in nature to working for a real company. These programs will bring in industry experts to provide both resources to students as well as experience,” Ozkan explained.
Along with these additional opportunities for students to gain experience, both Dr. Ozkan and Professor Dean encouraged students to explore other avenues that would improve their marketability.
“Students should consider improving their skills with software,” Dean specifically suggested. “Particularly industry software because a lot of the engineers on the market might have years of experience, but no skills when it comes to using a computer for data analysis.”
Ozkan also urged students to consider obtaining a minor in either mechanical or electrical engineering.
“Companies want technical skills in other fields as well, and combining a petroleum major with a technical minor will better qualify students for jobs,” Ozkan asserted.
“There is still hope,” he continued. “Students should focus on making themselves stronger candidates.”
Jean Manning-Clark, Director of the Career center echoed Dr. Ozkan’s thoughts on the availability of positions.
“There are openings, though they may not be specifically within the petroleum field,” Manning-Clark asserted.
“We are encouraging students to broaden their search and market the skills that set them apart from others. Some Petroleum majors may find jobs in the big data area of the financial industry, while others may consider going into water wells,” she explained. “The Department of Energy, among many others, is interested in petroleum engineers for their technical skills.” However, the issue is not necessarily limited to just oil companies.
Manning-Clark explained, “We are seeing many companies diversifying and moving towards other markets aside from oil alone. However, we are also seeing new start-up oil companies coming to career events on campus.”
“The market might be in a low, but all markets tend to shift,” Clark stated. “Companies might hold off on hiring new employees at the moment, but it will not remain that way.”