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Texas Oil and Gas Industry Attracting Best and Brightest

The oil and gas industry both nationwide and in Texas has provided a steady stream of good economic news. Wells are being drilled and pipelines are being built and investment in infrastructure (particularly in areas with shale gas) and in technological improvements is increasing. For quite a while it seemed that an older workforce dominated the industry. That has been changing.

Businessweek recently discussed how a growing number of young people, the so-called “Millennials“, are getting involved in the oil industry. Today about 71% of the oil industry’s workforce is over 50 years old, but the industry is now undergoing what the Independent Petroleum Association of America is calling the “great crew change”.

This change has resulted in part from the excitement of the new drilling technology in the U.S. A new generation of wildcatters, landmen, engineers, investors, entrepreneurs and aspiring oil barons are coming of age and creating even more opportunities. One such new entrepreneur is 27 year old Mark Hiduke, who calls himself a Texas oilman. His company, PetroCore LLC is based in Dallas and is just a few months old. As of May, 2013 he obtained $100 million from a local private-equity firm this month. The company plans to purchase underdeveloped land and drill shale wells. He told Businessweek that the opportunities were arising from new energy technology and that the shale boom had created many opportunities to “jump in and be given enormous responsibility”.

Mr. Hiduke is not alone. Young entrepreneurs are forming companies dealing with all aspects of the industry and are competing with industry veterans, and also collaborating with them. Kimberly Lacher, who is 38 years old, and her business partner Wood Brookshire, who is 31, run Vendera Resources. Their first fund began with a few hundred thousand dollars and grown into a $4 million fund. The company has invested $50 million in 1,200 wells.

T. Boone Pickens, an 85 year old oilman and billionaire, said: “I’ve never seen an industry do what the oil and gas industry has done in the last 10 years. Ten years ago I could not have made this statement that you have picked the right career [in the oil and gas industry].” The Dallas chapter of Young Professionals in Energy has seen membership shoot up 60% since 2009, primarily due to new members under age 37. It now has about 4,000 members. Nathen McEown, a 33 year old accountant at Whitley Penn LLP in Dallas, said: “These guys are going to be the poster children of self-made oil and gas tycoons.”

The energy industry needs new ideas and fresh faces to keep innovating and growing, and the fact that a younger generation of well-educated professionals, with many opportunities in many different industries, are choosing the oil and gas industry for their careers is going to bring benefits for decades to come.

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