The Energy Industry Reaches Out To Its Future Workforce
The energy industry is engaged in a tug of war – it sees itself as playing a crucial role in helping mankind, while many Americans possess a deep-seated mistrust of oil and gas companies. That’s especially true of today’s school-age students.
According to Gallup, almost half of Americans (47%) had a negative view of the oil and gas industry in 2015, while just more than one-third (34%) viewed the industry positively. By 2017, the gap had narrowed, but negative opinions still topped positive ratings by 2%.
Public opinion has dampened energy companies’ ability to overcome misconceptions and differences in opinion. And young people may be their toughest audience, at a time when the industry is facing a growing demand for new workers.
Generation Z’s Perception:
Here’s the storyline for America’s youth:
- Coal was the fuel for their grandparent’s lifetime
- Oil and gas was for their parent’s generation, and
- Renewable energy is the future.
This should be a wake-up call for the industry, which must make members of Generation Z – definitions vary, but generally those between 2 and 19 – a priority, as these individuals have the ability to shape the future of energy through innovation. The complexity of this task becomes clear when you realize this generation may hold beliefs that are not necessarily substantiated by facts, contributing to the divide between supporters of the oil and natural gas industries and those whose concerns about climate change and the production of fossil fuels push them toward renewable energy.
EY last year surveyed U.S. consumers and energy industry executives about current perceptions of the industry with striking results, especially among teens. Generation Z described the industry as a “problem causer, rather than a problem solver.” More than half of teens – 56% -- said the industry isn’t worth the damage it causes to the environment. Media coverage of oil spills and other accidents become ingrained in the minds of these young people and, over time, they have developed a one-sided mindset.
Teens are digital natives and when only 44% deem the energy industry a leader in technology and 41% consider it “innovative,” clearly there is a disconnect. Only 45% of teens surveyed said the industry is trustworthy.
It is difficult to overcome these negative images, especially when only 35% of teens believe your industry will be important for another century.