Acadiana oilfield boom means opportunity for young professionals

The oil and gas professionals who gathered at the Lafayette City Club on Thursday were mostly young men and women, so-called millennials in their early 20s to mid-30s, though a few were older.

Many already manage people. Some lead a department or drilling operations or have profit-and-loss responsibility at their company.

Others are getting ready to take on greater roles whether they work in drilling, construction, rental, chemicals or in other speciality and subspecialty fields that make the oilfield go.

“We don’t have any other options,” said J. Taylor Brazzel, a 27-year-old drilling engineer for Chalmers Collins & Alwell, a Lafayette oil and gas drilling consulting firm.

Brazzel said engineers in his generation and the older hands who are about to retire know and can feel a big, hollow gap that exists because of people who found other careers in one of the industry’s many harsh economic dips.

“There were no jobs to pursue back then,” Brazzel said.

Mark Miller, of Merlin Oil and Gas, said there is a dearth of oilfield workers in their 40s. Those that age skipped out on the industry during the dip in the 1980s, he said.

The landscape has changed. New onland drilling techniques enable companies to produce once-unreachable onland deposits, and deepwater Gulf of Mexico projects are tapping into huge oil and gas fields. In between, workover projects and new drilling sites dot the shallow-water Gulf map.

There are more jobs available now than there are experienced people to fill them, and those who lead will need to get more from the good people they have.

Seeing a need, Angela Cring, executive director for the Louisiana Gulf Coast Oil Exposition, created Young Professionals of LAGCOE about 18 months ago.

For a luncheon Thursday, LAGCOE brought in executive development firm Excelerant.

Excelerant co-owner Elise Bouchner said oilfield leaders today are groomed and readied in a much shorter period because they have to be.

“The difference is how we’re getting them prepared,” she said.

About 110 of the young professionals sat, ate and talked with older veterans Thursday.

“No one really taught us how to be leaders,” said Deidra Toups, a manager with HB Rentals. She explained that she had to learn on the go, often reaching back to her days as a leader in middle school sports.

Greg Drury, of Chevron, said a good leader communicates simply and well, draws a plan and executes the plan.

Leonard Castille, vice president of sales for Frank’s, said a sales professional knows what he or she is selling inside and out.

Castille also said a sales professional is someone who should ask hard questions, such as how the salesman’s company performed on a recent job. If the report on the job performance is bad news, Castille said, you still have to take that back to the office, even if it means facing the wrath of the operations personnel.

Cring said LAGCOE has started several programs to help bring in the new crop of leaders. She said LAGCOE sponsors golf and other sports tournaments, as well as networking socials and leadership lunches like the one Thursday.