Here at National Driller, we like to stay as in tune with our readership as we can. That means getting out to trade shows and other industry events to hear from the contractors who make up a majority of our readers. It also means directly asking those readers their opinions about the industry through email surveys.

We recently got the results back from our latest email survey, and I wanted to share a slice of them with readers because I think it confirms what they already see in their own companies.

A lot of you are starting sentences with, “If only I could find a few more good employees …” In fact, we found that more than six in 10 contracting firms either strongly agree or agree that the shortage of good help has limited the amount of work they can take on. What are the limiting factors? Readers’ wish lists for employees had a lot of similar themes: good work ethic, necessary experience, ability to pass a drug test and a good driving record.

Contractors Mostly Optimistic

I spoke with a lot of contractors at the recent Groundwater Week event in Nashville and at the Texas Ground Water Association meeting in San Marcos, Texas. Most of them fit the profile of our typical reader. The majority of our readership works at drilling contracting or well services firms, as you might expect from a magazine named National Driller. Many of our readers work at small mom-and-pop outfits. About five in 10 readers work at companies with fewer than 10 employees. About two-thirds of our readers work at companies with under 25 employees. The story of drilling companies is the story of small business in America.

Broadly speaking, that story at the start of 2018 is mostly a good one. People I spoke with at these events are bullish on business, a marked contrast to conversations I had 5 years ago when I joined the magazine. Things are looking good. But, without good workers, these small businesses will suffer and stay small.

But Optimism is Tempered

Many of the people surveyed worry about the near future of hiring, and that affects the near future of the industry. Three-quarters of readers say that, during the last few years, it’s gotten tougher to find good workers. About seven in 10 readers say it’ll get worse in the next 2 to 3 years. That’s concerning. When companies say they pass up projects because they don’t have people to do the work, it should get the whole industry’s attention.

So, what’s to be done?

Drilling is tough work that often requires long hours, travel and a tolerance for getting dirty that a lot of people nowadays simply don’t have. That’s not changing. But what can change is how the industry finds and cultivates people who could potentially make a living as drillers.

I recently interviewed a contractor who was working with the industrial trades classes at a local high school. His thinking: A kid who gets a kick out of welding as part of a high school shop class is probably a kid to talk to about work after he gets a diploma. That’s just one idea, but it’s a good one. My point is, if you have trouble finding good help, it’s worth reconsidering the tactics and getting creative.

What do you think? What’s your secret to finding good hands for your crew? Let us know. Send an email to

Stay safe out there, drillers.