By Velda Addison, Hart Energy

Many would consider it difficult to market an industry that has been laying off employees in droves to younger generations looking to nail down careers or find jobs.

But panelists during the Society of Petroleum Engineers’ Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition tried to do that during the conference’s opening session Sept. 28. Panelists were asked to give advice to students and displaced professionals on what they should be doing to find jobs.

“That’s a tough one,” moderator Eithne Treanor, managing director for E Teanor Media, said before turning to the panelists for responses.

More than 100,000 people have lost their jobs in the oil and gas sector amid abundant supplies and unmatched demand. Commodity prices have tumbled, causing companies to make cuts and reduce activity. News of more job cuts came recently.

On Sept. 29, Chesapeake Energy Corp. said it cut 15% of its employees, or 740 people. The same day Shell Malaysia, a unit of Royal Dutch Shell, said it would reduce its staff by 1,300 jobs over the next two years. Last week Halliburton said it laid off staff in Williston, N.D.

The number of people out of work in the oil and gas sector continues to grow. So here is what a couple of the panelists had to say.

Scott Tinker, director of the Bureau of Economic Geology and director of the Advanced Energy Consortium, told the crowd that he has two sons in graduate school. One is studying petroleum engineering and the other is in geosciences.

“I continue to believe that the energy industry is the greatest industry on the planet,” said Tinker, who also is a geologist. “It’s vital for economic growth, prosperity. It’s vital to lift the world out of poverty. … I am bullish on this industry.”

He called the industry a place for young people to make a remarkable difference in the world by having jobs in an industry that matters.

Bernard Looney, COO of production for BP, encouraged people to take the long view.

The industry will have downturns, and it is just as predictable that there will be upturns, he said.

“If you look back over decades of this industry’s history that is the nature of this business,” Looney said. “That is something that I think we have to take a long term view on.”

He added that he could not imagine a more exciting industry in which to be involved.

“Our obligation is to tell that story to the next generation because it is a fabulous industry that is very worthwhile,” he said.

Hopefully, future generations will understand the cyclical nature of the business and realize what it has to offer not only in terms of career potential but everything else. Hydrocarbons power transportation. They provide the energy source or raw material to make products such as shampoo, toothpaste, clothing and plastics, which can be found in products such as cell phones and computers.

Life as we know it today would probably collapse without oil and gas and the people who get it from the ground. Just like Looney said, the industry will have downturns and upturns.

Velda Addison can be reached at