July 27, 2023

Jordan Yates and Adriana Herrera interview Molly Determan, President of the EWTC (Energy Workforce & Technology Council) to learn more about strategies for recruitment and retention.



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Navigating Workforce Challenges in Oil & Gas - Episode 7 - Transcript


00:00:00 Jordan Yates
This episode of the Energy Pipeline is sponsored by Caterpillar Oil& Gas. Since the 1930s, Caterpillar's manufactured engines for drilling, production, well service, and gas compression. With more than 2, 100 dealer locations worldwide, Caterpillar offers customers a dedicated support team to assist with their premier power solutions.

00:00:24 Speaker 2
The energy pipeline is your lifeline to all things oil and gas to drill down deep into the issues impacting our industry. From the frack site to the future of sustainability, hear more about industry issues, tools, and resources to streamline and modernize the future of oil and gas. Welcome to The Energy Pipeline.

00:00:49 Jordan Yates
Hello, everybody. Welcome back to another episode of The Energy Pipeline. It's me your host, Jordan Yates, and I'm joined today by my co- host, Adriana, and a very special guest, Molly Determan. Molly is the president of the Energy Workforce and Technology Council. Molly, we are so excited to have you here today.

00:01:11 Molly Determan
Thanks so much. I'm so excited to be here.

00:01:14 Jordan Yates
Adriana is going to kick us off with a few questions as we get to know you. Are you ready?

00:01:19 Molly Determan

00:01:21 Jordan Yates
Wonderful. Adriana, let's get going.

00:01:23 Adriana Herrera
Let's get started. All right. Well, so Molly, just to get us started, we would like to know if you can provide us an overview of how the current workforce landscape within the oil and gas industry is at right now.

00:01:37 Molly Determan
Yeah. So I work for the Energy Workforce and Technology Council, and we are the National Trade Association for energy services and equipment companies. So a lot of what I'll speak to and know about is specific to the energy services and equipment companies that sector the oil and gas industry. So when I think about that workforce and the current landscape, I know that we represent more than 650, 000 jobs just directly in the US. And those jobs require a myriad of skills and there's things that you might think about traditionally to energy services engineers and welders, manufacturers, but there's also a lot of talent, especially up and coming in the digital space and then just providing those capabilities to fill the new energy roles. But overall, all of the oil and gas jobs are really, they're great paying jobs that help their families thrive. And so it's a really great place to work.

00:02:54 Jordan Yates
Yeah, oil and gas is something that pays very nicely. I remember when I was in college, I did an oil and gas internship and I was a mechanical engineering major, and so were my friends, but they did more mechanical- based ones and my internship literally paid double. It's insane how well this industry pays.

00:03:12 Molly Determan
And the fact that you got paid as an intern.

00:03:16 Jordan Yates

00:03:17 Molly Determan
That's great too.

00:03:18 Jordan Yates
Exactly. We are spoiled in this industry. I love it. Adriana, what do you got to ask next?

00:03:25 Adriana Herrera
So just picking up on what you mentioned, Molly, you did mention that when you said jobs, you mentioned technology, you mentioned engineering. Do you feel like the workforce is a little bit of everything or how is that landscape looking like right now?

00:03:40 Molly Determan
I mean, it is a little bit of everything, but I think that you are seeing kind of the types of roles changing and what people are recruiting for. It's not as heavily, I mean they are still recruiting and engineering and all those traditional things, but there's a lot picking up in data science, applied technologies, and in those areas.

00:04:05 Adriana Herrera

00:04:06 Jordan Yates
I love that there's so many options out there. It's cool because sometimes traditionally we just think oil and gas, " Oh, it's somebody working on a rig," but there's actually so many more layers to that that need to be there in place to make it work.

00:04:20 Molly Determan
That's true.

00:04:21 Adriana Herrera
Definitely, good point.

00:04:22 Jordan Yates
So yeah. Adriana, did you have another question?

00:04:27 Adriana Herrera
I have another question just to following up on that. In your experience, what are some of the key factors contributing to that workforce gap that we have in the oil and gas industry?

00:04:42 Molly Determan
Yeah. I mean, I think that the top primary factor that I would point to is the negative rhetoric about the industry. Like y'all said, there's so much that people don't know about the industry, but not only do they not know about the industry, what they do know, a lot of it is not who we are and what we do. There's a lot of misconceptions about us and it makes it really difficult to recruit from outside of the industry, but it also makes it challenging to retain talent as well. So if I had to point to just one thing, that would be the top factor.

00:05:19 Jordan Yates
Yeah, it's interesting. It kind of goes both ways because my brother- in- law is in this industry as well, and when he graduated with his mechanical degree, he realized, " There's not a lot of jobs right now in the oil and gas industry. What do I do?" And I told him, I was like, " Just do mechanical for a few years." And he's like, " Absolutely not. I love oil and gas. I went to school for this. I will be a petroleum engineer." And I think it's funny that it can go both ways that the passion, whether it is for or against, I love that it is there and that it is such a hot topic.

00:05:55 Molly Determan
Absolutely. The people that are in the oil and gas industry are passionate about what we do and there's a lot to be excited about. And so you meet a lot of people like your brother that feel as excited as they do, and that's who we need to have be our advocates in talking about what we do.

00:06:12 Jordan Yates
Yeah. No, it's amazing. So that kind of naturally leads us to our next question, which is what are the strategies and initiatives that you all at EWTC are implementing to promote the jobs in this industry and the outreach you are doing to attract talent to oil and gas? I saw on your website there were some cool videos that were well done, but beyond that, what is it you guys are doing?

00:06:38 Molly Determan
Yeah. I mean, certainly advocating for the industry on behalf of us and talking about all of the great things that we provide is one thing, but it's also giving our companies the skills and the tools that they need, but also giving them the platform to be able to talk to each other and share what best practices are, current trends, and attracting talent so that they can be able to stay up to date and provide the most current opportunities to attract talent. So they have done a lot together on upskilling and reskilling workers. There's a lot that they're doing as well about when you're hiring candidates with the ability, looking at those skills and not looking at the resume in the traditional ways that they have. And so they talk about that and what are different ways that we can attract talent? I remember it was probably getting close to 10 years ago when our HR committee was talking about performance reviews and doing ratings list performance reviews. And I was like, " What is this magic?" And now that's like what everybody does, but there had to be a company that was out there and willing to say, " We've tried this and this is how it works." And willing to share those best practices so that the other companies can go back and decide what they want to deploy within their organization, but being out there and enabling our workforce to be able to be our advocates is really key as well.

00:08:24 Jordan Yates
That's awesome. So I guess has there been any examples that have stuck out to you personally that was just like, this was a really good, I guess, anecdote on how your organization helped somebody get a job or are you a little bit further out of the actual day- to- day operations?

00:08:43 Molly Determan
We're a little bit further out of the day to day, but I know over the years there's been initiatives that we've done. There was a military recruiting job fair that we did and that helped specifically bring some people in and make those skills transferrable that they learned in their service in the military absolutely directly applies to what they're going to use in the oil and gas industry. So we were able to partner with an organization that's out placing people that are transitioning out of service and connect them with our member companies.

00:09:28 Adriana Herrera
Okay, Molly, I have another question for you. Are there any specific efforts or programs that are fostering diversity and inclusion in the oil and gas workforce?

00:09:41 Molly Determan
Absolutely. So we spearheaded a diversity study that we continue to invest in. We did it the first time in 2018 and we do it every three years and have continued to expand that. And out of that diversity study, then our member companies come up with actionable recommendations for our member companies that they're wanting to invest in their cultures. So some of the things that they talk about are investing and developing your employee value proposition, identifying new sources of talent to shape the future of the industry, focus on retention, so keeping women underserved populations and amplifying advancement opportunities through mentorship and sponsorship. Additionally, some of the things that we recommend are flexibility not just for our office workers because that's a lot easier to implement, but also for the field and manufacturing. We also talk about flexible return- to- work options. We're not just talking about parental leave, but we know that life happens. Parents need care. There's things that just happen in life and we need to be able to support our employees with flexibility to handle those moments. And that's what really makes employees that are very loyal to their organizations and want to stay.

00:11:12 Jordan Yates
That's such a good point.

00:11:15 Adriana Herrera
Oh, no. And you mentioned the word retention when you answered this question. I think that is so important and key because people stay in the place where they feel not only included but trained, they feel understood. You mentioned also people are parents, so having your programs look into this facet, because it's not the work day to day, it's just the people's life and how this falls into keeping the retention for the people. And this definitely drives it to diversity and inclusion, right? It's a big part of it.

00:11:48 Molly Determan
Absolutely. And fortunately the oil and gas industry has a really amazing track record of solving industry- wide challenges through collaboration, like I talked about, best practice sharing, and we did that with safety culture. And so now an additional way that we need to do that as through DEI and having that same type of focus on it being part of the culture, making people feel included and feeling like they belong.

00:12:21 Jordan Yates
When you guys are a part of that initiative, what does it actually look like? Because from my personal experience, obviously I'm a woman in this industry and I've had days where I've gone on a rig and I look around and I'm literally the only girl there, and it's like nobody's fault but my own because I wanted to work that day and go up there. And sometimes it's kind of awkward because people look at you like, " What are you doing here?" And I'm curious, when it gets that granular, how do you guys at the EWTC interact with situations like that? Because you guys are saying you want it to be diverse, but then you're also actually fostering it actively, things like that. How are you involved?

00:13:05 Molly Determan
I think it's a lot of it is showing from the top down the organization's why it matters, why it matters to their business. We have a lot of numbers that we share with our executives on the more diverse, more inclusive companies have better returns. And so when you're talking their language and you're showing how much money is lost in turnover, voluntary turnover, then it makes a little bit more sense about why they should be investing in that and it's the right thing to do. And constantly, the how we do it, we're constantly focused on it. So like I mentioned, we do that diversity study every three years with our member companies, but in between those studies, we take those findings, we do workshops, and then we have a toolkit that has a maturity index so that companies can look and see where they are measured along this maturity index and then it has recommendations on how you can go and get to the next level of maturity. So it's not just talking about why it's important, but where you are and how you can get there.

00:14:22 Jordan Yates
I like it because then it could foster a little healthy competition. Who's the most mature, who's got the best workplace?

00:14:27 Molly Determan

00:14:27 Jordan Yates
And I feel like that gets reflected in Glassdoor and other hiring areas because I mean, people care about that stuff and not necessarily just diversity, but the other things around it, like you mentioned, time off for sickness or other non- conventional things to receive time off for. That's kind of a big deal.

00:14:47 Molly Determan
It is. And that's what keeps people around. And not only around, but being an advocate for your organization is those types of changes. And I think that there are a lot of people and leaders in the oil and gas industry that recognize that we can't do business as usual. We have to bring in the best and the best, the best and the brightest talent, and we have to bring in talent from outside of the industry. And so in order to do that, we have to be a place, a destination workplace. And we can be. It might require some change, but we can do it.

00:15:32 Jordan Yates
We got this.

00:15:34 Molly Determan
That's right.

00:15:34 Adriana Herrera
And I'm sure just being a business or a company, we all have or live in this bubble. So without the programs that you're mentioning, it's hard to know how you stack up in all these other items with other companies that might be taking your talent away. And having some visibility too, it will help you retain whoever you have or attract the people that you're trying to get. That's very interesting.

00:15:57 Molly Determan
That's right. Yeah.

00:16:01 Jordan Yates
You mentioned something I think earlier about a bit of manufacturing automation. I've noticed in this industry, just because they have a foot in both oil and gas and manufacturing, that there has been a lot more automation creeping into the oil and gas world, such as automated rigs, robots on rigs, and a whole bunch of really exciting things that just woo, they make my brain excited. I'm curious, I know I sound like such a nerd, but I'm curious, how has that affected you all from a recruiting standpoint and what kinds of new talents has it attracted having this whole other sector basically piled on top of the oil and gas industry?

00:16:40 Molly Determan
Right. I mean, definitely it is exciting. It's created new job opportunities, but it's also given a lot of job opportunities for the existing workforce, for upskilling, for those that are interested in growing. And it charts a path for career development that didn't exist before because now there's these opportunities for the existing workforce. I think there's a lot of advancements in technology, and a lot of it is making the industry safer, which will also help retain and attract talent. It's a challenge as well because I think that it's going to require a large percentage of our workforce to go through some upskilling over the next five years, but it's an opportunity. It's all about how we frame it for our existing workforce and how we can bring in new talent.

00:17:42 Jordan Yates
I wonder on the shop floor, if there's some sort of the traditional oil and gas guys versus the new automation guys and they're like, " What's up with all these electrical engineers entering the scene?" I wonder what it's actually like there because I haven't been out on rigs or anything in years. So for me, I'm just curious. Adriana, have you noticed, I guess in the field, any overlap of the more technology automation people coming in with the traditional oil and gas people? Have you seen any of that?

00:18:12 Adriana Herrera
I think there's definitely an influx of the technology people coming in. How the others feel about it, I don't get to see that side of things, but I think we've all seen it, right? Technology is everywhere. Technology is making everything a little better too, so we do need that support of the people that have that knowledge to bring it in.

00:18:34 Molly Determan
I actually got to go on a tour of a CAT manufacturing facility recently, and they were showing me the automated welding, which was so cool. And they were talking about now that there's not a welder doing this, this is the other jobs that they are doing. And so it wasn't displacing jobs, it was just changing jobs and it was more checking the welding and looking at what had been done. I also went on a, I don't know, rig, a few months ago that was a top of the line rig with all the technology, and I got to go in the doghouse and the driller was, I know it was very exciting, but the driller was showing me all the fancy buttons and tools. And my perception was, and I was a visitor, but my perception was that they were excited and they were proud that they could be a driller of the future.

00:19:34 Jordan Yates
Yeah, those are such cool stations because it's like rather than having to actually move the pipe with their hands, they can control it with an actual controller. And I think that's so cool. And also it's just a lot safer. Like you said, it really does foster the idea of safety as we are bringing this innovation in. And I think it's really cool that at EWTC, you're kind of in the middle of all it. You get to see these initiatives happen, you get to watch the industry grow. And I'm proud of you guys because I just think you're doing a really good job.

00:20:06 Molly Determan
Thank you. I appreciate that.

00:20:11 Jordan Yates
Adriana, did you have another question?

00:20:14 Adriana Herrera
Yes, I do. So Molly, how does the industry adapt to this evolving workforce needs? You know how we mentioned technology's something new, there's changing demands. What are you seeing when it comes to all these different factors, sustainability, renewable energy transitions, advancements in technology? How is that workforce adapting to all this?

00:20:38 Molly Determan
Yeah. I mean, I think that that's part of what we do a lot of our messaging around is that all the forecasts show global energy demand continuing to grow, and oil and gas continuing to be a really important part of that mix for a long time. There's a lot of people in the world without access to energy driving that long- term demand growth, and they want to have the same quality of life that we do. And so we want to operate more efficiently while continuing to meet the ever growing demand. And our view is that the energy services and technology sector, the companies that know how to meet that demand at scale, and then men and women that are employed by the industry are helping meet those needs and solve complex challenges. So it's really, and to the point of like it's so exciting to being a part of this workforce, that's why.

00:21:33 Jordan Yates
That's beautiful. I love when people, I feel like it's come up a few times on this podcast and they'll mention something along the lines of, " It's not standard to have electricity and all these things that we have here. And there's so many places trying to get there, and the better we do to foster it here and get safer, more efficient practices, the faster we can help them into places where they don't have it." So I love that you brought that up because every time someone does, it just gives me the warm and fuzzies.

00:22:01 Molly Determan
Absolutely. We shouldn't be proud, we shouldn't be happy about what we're doing.

00:22:04 Jordan Yates
It's Awesome. So I have a question about your involvement with educational institutions. So for me, when I was in college and I went to the school of engineering at Texas Tech, I loved the job fair. They crushed it, killed it every time. It was 200- plus engineering companies, so many oil and gas, and they just did so amazing to where you go in and it feels like you're in this magical wonderland of opportunity. I wonder from your perspective, what you all are doing to be a part of those kinds of events, institutions, and places where you are connecting educational institutions to actual workforce opportunities?

00:22:47 Molly Determan
Absolutely. And that is awesome that you had that super positive experience and that you were there, but you had that STEM background and that exposure to the oil and gas industry to get you there, and you were obviously in the great State of Texas, which helps.

00:23:10 Jordan Yates

00:23:12 Molly Determan
Yeehaw. But, or I shouldn't say but, and we really believe that we need to focus on energy education, STEM education, as early as possible, like elementary school level so that we don't lose people before it's too late, that they're not turned off entirely to working in the energy industry and doing a lot of education. So there's a lot of great programs out there, and we try to help bridge the gap on connecting our member companies with those and making sure that there are resources available not only for college, but also colleges that we might not traditionally have gone to. And then also at high school, middle school, even elementary school level, and making sure that all of the levels of education are covered in addition to vocational schools. So one of the things that we have is we have a scholarship program that is for our member company dependence, and it's anything after high school. The interesting thing about it is that it doesn't have to be for somebody who's going into the oil and gas industry. As long as they work for one of our member company employees, we want to help them get the education that they want.

00:24:42 Jordan Yates
I mean, even if they got say a liberal arts degree, but they're like an oil and gas institution put me through this, it still has that positive, I guess, butterfly effect, if you will, of them enjoying it.

00:24:54 Molly Determan

00:24:54 Jordan Yates
I like that a lot.

00:24:56 Molly Determan
I know if the oil and gas industry had helped me get my journalism degree, I surely would've been more inclined to go straight there instead of having some stats by nonprofit work first.

00:25:09 Jordan Yates
It worked out the way it needed to.

00:25:11 Molly Determan

00:25:13 Adriana Herrera
And Jordan, since you mentioned recruiting, I'm just curious to know from Molly, is the energy workforce and technology council, is the audience mostly people that currently have an oil and gas job in big companies, or are you also targeting and taking a look at what students are thinking? What's the mix in your target audience for all these great initiatives you have?

00:25:35 Molly Determan
Yeah. I mean, I think that it's all of the above. So the people that work with us directly are energy services and equipment companies, and primarily kind of a more executive level, but the messaging and the tools that we provide are for all of the employees at those organizations. But then the advocacy work that we do is to lawmakers, regulators, members of Congress and through media, the public. I hate to say the general public because there's no such thing.

00:26:18 Jordan Yates
Gen Pop.

00:26:19 Molly Determan
And our focus and because that's a lot of people, that's a lot of audiences, but our remit is to promote and advocate for energy services and equipment companies. So that's everything that we do and all the messaging that we do is strictly focused there. And so that enables us to really unify our voice with all of our, we have over 300 member companies, with all those member companies to be able to make as big of an impact as possible.

00:26:55 Jordan Yates
It's a very wide reach.

00:26:56 Adriana Herrera
That's awesome. That must be must difficult having to send such a large message to such a non, I guess, niche group because then you have to tailor it to where everyone can hear it and accept it and bring it in. Do you have to break up your messages per who you target?

00:27:14 Molly Determan
For sure, absolutely. Different messages for different audiences, but I will say there are themes that rise across and are used for all of those messages. And a lot of the messages are the talking points that we have for our workforce resonates well with the general public as well. So when we're talking about the economic benefits, the jobs that are provided when we're talking about energy security, especially with what happened or started last year, I should say, in Russia invading Ukraine and how that brought the geopolitical issues to the forefront, that really brought energy security to a forefront that it just hadn't been at in a while. So people understand how energy plays a role in national security.

00:28:12 Jordan Yates
Yeah. I think it kind of bursted our bubble in the fact of how important it is to have that understanding at the least now that we've seen all these different political events unfolding. So I think it's interesting that you guys are on that boat of awareness. As we're getting towards the end, I do have a question on real actionable items and I want to ask it in two sections. So the first question I have is advice or specific recommendations. If there's say a CEO of a company that wants to work on recruitment and wants to utilize EWTC, how do they go about doing that?

00:28:54 Molly Determan
Well, first they need to be a member.

00:28:59 Jordan Yates
Sign up.

00:29:00 Molly Determan
Sign up and be a member. No, I mean, the companies that are involved with us, the ones that get the most out of their membership are the companies that have people involved in committees and that are involved in setting the agendas for what we are doing as an organization. If you just join and you don't get involved, you're not going to get a lot out of it. So we like to have engaged members who are vocal and active and care about making the industry a better place.

00:29:33 Jordan Yates
Wow, that sounds like a fun organization to join. If I ever am a CEO of an energy company, I'm in. Absolutely. So on the flip side, if there is somebody who's listening and is wanting to find a job utilizing you all, how is that pathway? How does that look?

00:29:54 Molly Determan
Absolutely. I mean, I think that our member companies are great places, they're a great place to work. They have a lot of career opportunities across the board, and we are happy to make those connections. I think, like we kind of talked about earlier, this sector is solving a lot of complex challenges and we think that you should be a part of it, and we're happy to make those connections.

00:30:21 Jordan Yates
Amazing. I can think of a lot of people who would love to utilize you all, so I'm about to start evangelizing EWTC and telling all my friends and family that they need to go look through you guys to find a job. I think we're just about to the end. We have started this new segment called The Drill Down, which is basically just a one to two- sentence recap on what you think the most important point is that we've made today. So Molly, is there something that you want to leave us with and the Drill Down with?

00:30:53 Molly Determan
Sure. In the Drill Down bit, I would like to leave with that energy services companies are the companies that can provide energy at scale and energy that is affordable, reliable, and it is a great place to work. So we hope that you will check us out and give our companies a chance.

00:31:18 Jordan Yates
Amazing. Thank you so much for coming on. Adriana, do you have any last comments for today?

00:31:25 Adriana Herrera
No. Thanks, Molly, for joining us today. I think it was very exciting to hear about having companies like this putting all of the oil and gas companies together to get best practices on all these other areas with laws and all of that. So thanks for joining us and I learned a lot today.

00:31:42 Molly Determan
Thank you both, I appreciate it.

00:31:46 Jordan Yates
Guys, thank you so much for listening to another episode of The Energy Pipeline. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did, and I will see you all next time. Bye- bye.

00:31:56 Speaker 2
Come back next week for another episode of The Energy Pipeline, a production of the Oil and Gas Global Network. To learn more, go to oggn. com.

Jordan Yates Bio Image

Jordan YATES


Jordan Yates is a Marketing Engineer at a specialty ceramic capacitors company. Her interest in the sales and marketing side of the Manufacturing & Energy Industry have gained her recognition in the digital space, specifically LinkedIn. She is the host of her podcast, 'Failing For You' and The Energy Pipeline. 

Adrianna Herrera - Co-host - Bio

Adriana Herrera


Adriana Herrera is an experienced Business Process Engineering Manager at SPM Oil & Gas with 9 years experience in Oil & Gas in both Manufacturing and Services. She has a Bachelors Degree in Industrial Engineering from Texas A&M University and her background has been on operational excellence and process improvement. She’s played a role in digital and lean initiatives, helping businesses drive efficiencies and organizational growth. As co-host of The Energy Pipeline, she looks forward to having conversations around continuous improvements and to shed light on best practices for the oil and gas industry. 

Molly Determan - Co-host - Bio

Molly Determan


As President of the Energy Workforce & Technology Council, Molly Determan is a partner in the development and management of the association’s strategy and activities to promote the energy services and technology sector of the oil and gas industry. In addition to overseeing daily operations, Determan works directly with Energy Workforce leadership to execute the Council’s engagement and growth strategy. Determan leads Energy Workforce’s communications, branding and marketing.