By Scott Weeden, Hart Energy What do BP, Devon Energy, Marathon Oil, Saudi Aramco, Chevron, Occidental Petroleum, Pemex, and Hunt Oil have in common? All of these companies had booths at the 2012 Society of Petroleum Engineers Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition (SPE ATCE) in San Antonio. And, each and every company was looking for new employees. Devon’s slogan was “Commitment Runs Deep.” The company had business cards printed with “Devon is a leading independent energy company engaged in the exploration, development, and production of oil and natural gas and is listed among Fortune magazines’ 100 Best Companies to Work For.” BP was recruiting for its US operations. The booth was quite busy every time I walked past it. This was the first year that Hunt Oil had a booth, which was in the Recruiting Now Pavilion. Hunt was looking for employees for both its domestic and international operations. This is the fourth year for the pavilion at the conference, according to an SPE spokesperson. It was quite surprising for me to see Oxy with a booth. The company was seeking talent for its international operations particularly. It is an indication of just how much emphasis is now being placed on replacing the older generation of oil industry workers. The interest from international oil companies was also striking. Saudi Aramco is looking to expand its exploration and production activities beyond the conventional oil wells it has been drilling for decades. Expertise in unconventional oil and gas is now needed by the company. Another Middle Eastern company with a booth was Kuwait Oil Co. Again, these companies are an indication of just how short-handed the industry is worldwide – and just how valuable US workers are to the industry. Every major service company had at least one wall in its booth dedicated to recruitment. Human resource representatives were very present throughout the conference. And, recruiting firms were there as well. Energy Search Associates, of Plano, Texas, was looking for executives that might be looking to move elsewhere. There were a lot of college students at the conference as well as from schools with petroleum engineering curriculums. They were competing in the PetroBowl. They were also competing in the employment bowl. Many of them brought their resumes and were looking for internships. The companies were interested since these will be the future recruits the industry needs. On Wednesday, the last day of the conference, about 200 high school students were introduced to opportunities in the industry as part of the National Energy Education Development Project. Groups of students were visiting various booths where company representatives explained what their companies did and what kind of products they had. SPE noted that it “is educating the next generation of aspiring engineers, scientists, and managers in the E&P industry.” That is exactly what the industry must do to meet its employments needs now and in the future. There was even a technical session on “Education, Recruiting, and Training for the Unconventional World.” The title of this year’s ATCE was “Unconventional Wisdom.” That is exactly what will be needed to meet the critical demand for managers in the coming years. Oh, and it would help if the industry could avoid another downturn in the near future. That’s what put the industry in the hole it is in now. Contact the author, Scott Weeden, at