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PESA Vice President Addresses Workforce Challenges on UT Panel

PESA Vice President Government Affairs Tim Tarpley identified major challenges facing the oilfield sector and discussed possible solutions during a webinar on “Workforce Development in the Energy Sector of North America.”

The webinar, sponsored by the University of Texas at Austin’s Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for Energy, Law and Business in partnership with the LILAS Benson Mexico Center, Salem Center for Policy at the McCombs School of Business, Ray Marshall Center at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy at the Jackson School of Geosciences, and Energy Initiative at the McCombs School of Business brought together panelists, including Tarpley, Merlin Cochran, Asociacion Mexicana de Empresas de Hidrocarburos; Mike Dubose, International Association of Drilling Contractors; and Ulises Neri, Mexico’s Ministry of Commerce. It was moderated by Dr. Heath Prince, LBJ School of Public Affairs.

Prince opened the discussion with an overview of what the workforce development means in terms of educating, training, placing and advancing of workers. He presented results from a survey of oil and gas employers he conducted, which looked at workforce challenges they faced. The barriers and challenges to reskilling included time, lack of funding and resistance to change.

Cochran, Dubose and Neri described how COVID-19 is accelerating adoption of new technology and automation by employers. The changes being implemented will not be reversed when the pandemic has abated, they said. Workers who can adapt and overcome will succeed, and companies need to do as much as possible to win the hearts and mind of their workforce and bring employees along into the future.

Tarpley discussed three main issues the oilfield sector faces: digitalization, concern around jobs, and diversity. The pandemic, he noted is accelerating changes that were already taking place within the oilfield services sector. Innovation and technology have always been at the forefront of the sector, however social distancing and the need for remote work pushed companies to move faster.

He told attendees that PESA is a leading voice for inclusion and diversity within the OFS sector.

“The energy sector hasn’t always been welcoming to women or people of color,” Tarpley said. “PESA’s membership has started the work of making that change.”

Responding to a question from the audience, Tarpley said government agencies and partnerships have a role in developing the U.S. workforce. He said that when he worked for a member of Congress in southern Houston, he saw challenges raised by a lack of communication and coordination between the companies that needed employees, community colleges which offered accreditation, high schools and the surrounding communities.

He was part of an effort to create awareness of well-paid, skilled jobs that allowed people to stay, grow and invest in their own community. That kind of coordinated effort will be important for the OFS sector during this era of rapid change.

You can learn more about PESA’s workforce development trainings or it’s I&D Champion Program here.

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