Youth pursuing careers in oil and gas: A deeper dive
Young people transitioning out of the fossil fuel industry and into clean energy and climate action-related careers deserve empathy, mentorship, professional support, and accessible skills-development opportunities now more than ever. But this latest New York Times article is missing the mark.
Young people transitioning out of the fossil fuel industry and into clean energy and climate action-related careers deserve empathy, mentorship, professional support, and accessible skills-development opportunities now more than ever. But this latest New York Times article, ‘A Slap in the Face’: The Pandemic Disrupts Young Oil Careers’ is missing the mark. Let’s unpack:
The unaddressed education gap
What is the role of post-secondary educators in being honest about the future of the oil and gas industry and about the magnitude of the climate crisis? From reading this article, it’s clear that some university departments are not doing a good job of teaching young people the systems thinking skills they need to be part of the energy system of the future. Scientists, academics, activists (especially young people), and policy experts have been ringing the alarm about climate change and the unsustainability of the current fossil fuel-dependent energy system for over two decades at the least. As educators, it is imperative that evidence-based climate science and the level of urgency required for action is communicated to students seeking careers in the energy sector to foster critical thinking and decision-making for future career choices.
At Student Energy, we work with young people interested in or already working in all parts of the energy sector, we take young people’s futures seriously – and this includes having a secure, thriving career that provides financial stability while meaningfully addressing climate change and creating a sustainable energy system for all. We also recognize that the energy sector’s harms on Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities around the world, and on nature, cannot be ignored, and efforts to address, transform, and repair these harms are as much part of the clean energy transition as efforts to create secure employment opportunities.
Our approach to these big challenges includes providing free, globally accessible energy education resources, free skill development and capacity building programs, and fostering a global community of youth who are all committed to advocating for a sustainable energy transition in every sector.
Where are the young oil and gas workers who are not necessarily “seeking elite positions” in the industry?
We need to consider and prioritize support for current workers to transition out of the oil and gas industry, and young people in regions where there is a lack of opportunity for other careers. Young people are facing employment challenges in all sectors right now, so if we highlight youth in oil and gas, we need a deeper dive into why young people choose these careers beyond those seeking a disproportionately high salary:
- It may be the only viable job option in their region
- They may face mounting costs of living or debt
- It may be one of the few industries in their region that provides adequate educational and professional training or support.
This article could have served youth better by telling more of those stories – these more complex choices deserve to be explored so that young people can be empowered to find alternate career pathways.
The changing energy sector needs to contend with years of successful youth recruitment strategies by the fossil fuel industry. It’s important to explore how the rapidly growing clean energy sector provides more meaningful support throughout young people’s career trajectory, particularly for BIPOC youth who have been historically underrepresented in the energy sector. Student Energy has repeatedly noted the lack of free, globally accessible programs for professional development and skill-building in preparation for an energy career, and have made it one of our central priorities as an organization to provide these programs.
What does a just transition actually look like?
With oil companies laying off more than 100,000 workers in the United States alone, and the increasingly urgent timeline for global emissions reductions, a just transition away from fossil fuels is imminent. We need to start diving into the specifics of what this looks like, both what it means for oil and gas companies (those who have set some climate targets and those who have not), and what it will take to create a supportive policy landscape that can facilitate this transition for the hundreds of thousands of workers employed in the oil and gas sector. We’ll need to ensure our education systems are empowering young people to be critical thinkers, equipped with transferable skills that they can apply across the changing energy system.
Learn more about Student Energy’s skill-building programs here.