Is the Drilling Industry Attracting Young Talent? If you had to start over, would you start over in this industry? Would you work in drilling knowing how hard it can be? If you would, why?

Asking for a friend. He or she young, and looking for a career. Is drilling for them? About 1.9 million people will earn bachelor’s degrees from colleges in the United States next spring. Another million will get associate degrees. Groundwater and other drilling sectors can have their pick of talented young people, if they know how to reach them.

I interviewed the president of the National Ground Water Association for this month’s cover story. Jeffrey W. Williams tells me we don’t do enough to make the industry “sexy.”

“We need to work to continue to be a more professional industry,” he says. “What I mean by that is, we need to convey that we’re really proud of what we do and that we know what we’re doing and that it is something that is very, very important. Image is everything.”

The unemployment rate for young people with a bachelor’s degree sat at 2 percent in 2015 (the most recent stat I could find). For those people, it’s an employee’s market. Do employers in the drilling industry make a good enough argument to attract and keep those employees?

“They have to think that they have a career, they have a purpose and that they can make a good living at it,” Williams goes on.

The “career” part is the tangible stuff. Ask yourself if you’re paying enough to your young hires. Do you offer lifestyle perks like a flexible schedule (within reason, of course)? You may not feel you can afford higher salaries or other niceties to attract workers. But think of it this way: Workers today can get those things just about anywhere. If you can’t find a way to offer them, get ready for what the HR people call “churn.”

For workers, one of the differences between a job and a career lies in knowing a path forward. Williams speaks of “purpose.” Do you make clear to younger workers on step one what their step two, three and maybe even four look like? Knowing a path gives employees a drive to succeed, and their success moves your business forward.

But it’s more than that. There’s the satisfaction of working with their hands and being out in the fresh air, even if that air smells like diesel or they can see their breath in it. There’s the satisfaction of putting to work that mechanical inclination they’ve had since their dad first asked them to hand him the pliers from the toolbox.

This is the good living the industry should promote to young people. Williams points out that “there are many other places for them to go.” He’s right. I hear all the time about how high the average age on the jobsite in the drilling industry is. Heck, National Driller’s average reader is over 50 — if that’s any reflection of the industry. The greying of the drilling industry is a real issue, so it’s critical that we get this “good living” message out.

Would you do it all over again? Most of you would. When you figure out the “why,” you have the answer to “how do we attract young talent to this industry?” That’s what you tell a 20-something fresh out of college, before you even have that salary discussion. Is drilling for them? Yes, it is. It’s on you to make that case.

What do you think? Are you worried about the greying of your crews? Have advice for other contractors or manufacturers for attracting young talent? Let me know. Send an email to

Stay safe out there, drillers.