PITTSBURGH — Zach Scott was a year old and his brother was still in the womb when their dad got laid off from Halliburton in 1986, the year after oil prices tanked and ushered in the largest industry downturn until, some argue, the current one.
Within two years, 20 percent of the workers in the oil and gas industry had lost their jobs. Many of them did not return and they discouraged their children from going into the industry — creating a generational gap that is now coming home to roost.
Scott’s father did neither of those things. He kept coming back to the oil and gas fields, despite the multiple layoffs that used to count as battle scars for industry veterans.
Cautiously, things appear to be turning up again, leaving companies scrambling for workers and wondering if those they have let go will return. If those former employees don’t come back, will the industry known for bluster, swearing and endless hours away from home be able to recruit the hot-shot smarts it needs to move forward?
At the end of each cycle, about 30 percent of the workers who lose their jobs don’t come back, said Tony Angelle, a vice president with Halliburton. His company is thinking about ways to attract talent now that activity is picking up again after a two-year slump.
They “don’t want anything to do with the oil and gas business,” he said at the Developing Unconventional Gas East conference in Pittsburgh in June.
Another fraction of the former workforce comes back reluctantly, still bitter about having been laid off, he said.
There are people who fall in love with the business and never want to leave, said Jared Oehring,…
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