Recruiting in the energy sector may be challenging, but the right candidates are out there. Photo via Getty Images

The January jobs report, per BLS, may be cause for celebration with 353,000 new jobs, but with a low unemployment rate of 3.7 percent, the tight labor market persists.

The same report states there were 2,000 more jobs in oil and gas extraction in January. Finding the right people for energy jobs can be a challenge right now as the industry has experienced flux the past few years. Many energy employers find key talent has moved into new industry verticals, drawn by the promise of increased stability.

Recruiting in the energy sector may be challenging, but the right candidates are out there. It is important for hiring managers to be realistic as they approach recruiting and hiring timeframes and make smart hiring decisions. The organization will be better off in the long run for this approach.

The following recruiting strategies are poised to support energy employers throughout the year.

Get personal.

Job candidates want to feel like their future employer is genuinely interested in them, which means recruiters should personalize the candidate’s experience. This starts by taking a holistic look at the hiring funnel and considering ways to make each candidate feel as though they are the only one you are talking to for the role.

Each touchpoint impacts how the candidate perceives the organization. The job description should inspire candidates, making them excited to apply and motivating them to dream about a future with your organization. Personalizing recruitment outreach messages to speak to their individual talents instead of a standard, generic message speaks volumes.

Moving through the hiring process as quickly as possible is important, but recruiting is about the long game. There are candidates who fall into place in a matter of days. Other times, you may have a conversation with a candidate months or even years before the timing is right for them to make a move. Asking about the candidate’s professional timeline and letting them know that you are willing to work with them, no matter how fast or slow, makes them feel special and valued by your company.

Be ready to compromise.

It has become hard to find the right fit for some of the energy jobs today. However, this does present an opportune moment for employers to reassess the conventional prerequisites typically required for specific positions. Criteria such as an exact college degree, a specified number of years of relevant experience, industry-specific expertise, an unbroken work history and proficiency in specific software applications are areas to reconsider in the job postings, job descriptions and interviews. This strategic adjustment broadens the talent pool and provides access to individuals whose suitability for a role might have been overlooked. Shifting away from stringent education backgrounds and narrowly defined experience, and instead prioritizing qualities such as adaptability and learning capabilities in the search for candidates, recruiters may discover a smoother path to securing qualified candidates.

Grow internal talent.

Recruitment today also means recruiting internally. The optimal approach to efficiently filling positions is promoting the role internally as existing employees have a vested interest and are deeply ingrained in the company’s culture. Their familiarity with colleagues, procedures and protocols facilitates a swift transition into new roles. In order for this to become a possibility, it’s imperative for leaders to nurture internal talent through professional development initiatives that equip employees with the skills needed for advancement. Tailored learning opportunities, mentorship and guidance for reskilling and upskilling can foster internal mobility, enhance employee retention and ensure sustained success. With all this in mind, recruiters should keep in close contact with management teams to discuss internal candidates and their career path.

There is no one way to recruit in 2024, but focusing on the individual and their skills as well as in-house candidates can make it a successful endeavor.

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Jill Chapman is a director of early talent programs with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.

This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

Retirement is coming for the energy industry's workforce. Here's how to prepare for it. Photo via Getty Images

Houston expert shares strategies for addressing the energy industry’s potential workforce shortages

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The energy industry, a vital part of Houston’s business ecosystem, faces the challenge of a shrinking workforce.

A U.S. Chamber of Commerce report indicates the workforce has nearly two million fewer workers today as compared to February 2020. A considerable part of this decline can be attributed to retirement and early retirement rates, with the pandemic prompting three million people to early retirement. Furthermore, with an estimated 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 daily, the entire generation is expected to reach retirement age by 2030.

The tight labor market, coupled with the growing brain drain associated with retirement rates, should serve as a wake-up call for employers in the energy sector. There are tried-and-true strategies to prepare businesses for waves of retirement and ensure the knowledge does not walk out the door.

Upskilling: Invest in the workforce 

Knowledge and skills go with workers are they retire. To mitigate the brain drain, companies need to invest in upskilling their existing employees and new hires. Establishing formal training and development opportunities can help enrich the workforce to pick up the responsibilities of retiring colleagues. This investment ensures a smooth transition, shows employees they are valued by the organization, and increases employee loyalty and engagement.

Adopting innovative training programs that cater to the specific needs of the energy sector is one approach. Technologies rapidly evolve, and employees must stay current to remain effective in their roles. Investing in the latest training programs, workshops and certifications will enable the workforce to thrive in a rapidly changing industry.

Mentoring programs: Pass the torch

Mentorship programs can play a pivotal role as more employees retire. Experienced employees nearing retirement can mentor younger workers, transferring knowledge and skills while ensuring a seamless transition of expertise. The value of mentorship programs can be priceless for an organization as they help transfer on-the-job learning and experiences that are not taught in the classroom.

A structured mentorship program usually proves most effective as it outlines the responsibilities of the mentors and mentees. A structured approach, which should have built-in accountability measures, ensures there is a productive knowledge transfer process.

Intentional recruitment: Attract and retain talent

A proactive recruitment approach is essential as businesses work to fill knowledge gaps. Companies in the energy sector should seek out talent to bridge the generational divide. This may include targeting candidates who have the relevant skills and knowledge, yet they are willing to adapt to the industry’s changing landscape.

Workplace culture is still a relevant and important component of attracting and retaining top-notch talent. Beyond competitive compensations packages, today’s job candidates look for growth opportunities and a focus on work-life balance.

Retaining knowledge: Document the expertise

Institutional knowledge will walk out the door as experienced employees retire. Companies can prepare for and mitigate the knowledge migration with knowledge-sharing systems and comprehensive documentation processes. An established process can help preserve information that may seem like second nature to more experienced employees and make it accessible to current and future employees. Asking retiring employees to document their expertise and best practices can safeguard their insights within the organization.

Covering bases: Create an alumni network

Retirement does not always mean the employee wants to hang up their proverbial hat entirely. Filling the knowledge gap as employees retire can be daunting. However, the development of an alumni network can extend the life of the institutional knowledge and knowledge-sharing process. Bringing back retirees on a project basis or to consult is a solution benefiting everyone involved.

Every industry must prepare for the impending wave of retirements. The energy industry’s significant impact on the Houston economy requires proactive and thoughtful solutions. The tight labor market and retirement rates should have businesses in this sector working diligently to fill the upcoming knowledge gaps through upskilling, mentoring, intentional recruitment, knowledge-sharing systems and alumni networks. Taking these steps now, the energy industry can circumnavigate workforce shortages and prepare for continued success.

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Jill Chapman is a director of early talent programs with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.

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Energy storage facility just outside of Texas gets funding from global investor with Houston presence

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A global independent energy and commodities group with its United States office in Houston has announced an investment in a Gulf Coast salt dome energy storage project.

Mercuria did not disclose its financial contribution into Lafayette, Louisiana-based Black Bayou Energy Hub LLC, but the company's support will go toward the development of the energy infrastructure of the large-scale, underground energy storage facility in Cameron and Calcasieu Parishes in Louisiana, which is alongside the Texas border.

"Mercuria's investment in Black Bayou Energy Hub represents a significant step towards enhancing the resilience and flexibility of our energy infrastructure. This partnership leverages Mercuria's robust financial capabilities and extensive expertise in commodity markets, aligning with Black Bayou's strategic location and development potential," Boris Bystrov, managing director of investments at Mercuria, says in a news release.

"We are committed to supporting innovative projects like Black Bayou essential for transitioning to a sustainable global energy future," he continues. "Together, we aim to create a storage solution that addresses the dynamic needs of the energy sector, fostering stability and growth in the U.S. Gulf Coast region and beyond."

Located in Southwest Louisiana near what is called "LNG Alley," the Black Bayou Energy Hub will initially store FERC-regulated natural gas energy in its salt dome storage capacity, as well as develop wide range of energy products to meet growing customer need, per the release.

The strategic location of the facility — 25 miles on either side of growing cities Lake Charles, Louisiana, and Port Arthur, Texas — is just seven miles east of the Louisiana/Texas border and 18 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico coastline.

"Mercuria's investment in the Black Bayou Energy Hub creates an ideal partnership that combines Mercuria's financial strength, extensive commodity experience, and global reach with Black Bayou's unique project attributes and the team's deep expertise developing, owning, and operating underground salt dome storage projects," adds Tad Lalande, Black Bayou's CEO. "We're thrilled to add Mercuria to our roster of existing sponsors, including Charlestown Energy Partners and Cameron Prairie Sporting Club, as we progress our development and bring this project to life."

With its local office in Houston's Greenway Plaza, Mercuria, founded in 2004, has pledged that over half of its new investments will go toward renewables and transitional energy.

Houston solar-powered tech company to collaborate on street safety device

lights on

EnGoPlanet, a Houston-based company that makes solar-powered street lights, is collaborating with a Silicon Valley company to create a solar-powered street light with emergency detection features.

Each K1 Super Tower, being created in partnership with Mountain View, California-based Knightscope, will include public safety technology such as:

  • Automated gunshot detection
  • Automated license-plate recognition
  • Blue strobe light
  • Mass-notification speaker
  • 360-degree, ultra-high-definition video

“We have been hard at work transforming conventional street lighting to one of the most advanced solar, battery, and LED solutions in the market — and we are excited to work with Knightscope to leverage that technology to further the public safety mission in an innovative way,” Petar Mirovic, CEO of EnGoPlanet, says in a news release.

Investors in EnGoPlanet, founded in 2019, include Houston-based Sallyport Investments and Paul Hobby, founding partner and managing director of Houston-based private equity firm Genesis Park.

Among the target customers for the K1 Super Tower are cities and colleges.

“Knightscope is rethinking every aspect of public safety technology,” says William Santana Li, chairman and CEO of Knightscope. “Pairing EnGoPlanet’s sustainable street lights with our innovative portfolio of capabilities will help illuminate more areas and set the new standard for city and campus safety.”

Knightscope, a publicly traded company, specializes in robotics and artificial intelligence geared toward public safety.

EnGoPlanet announced in April that it neared completion on its Calhoun County project that features 300 solar-powered, motion-activated street lights and 20 camera-equipped power poles at several local parks.

Newly named CEO to lead Houston gold hydrogen biotech co. into high-growth phase

bugging out

Using microbes to sustainably unlock low-cost hydrogen sounds like the work of science fiction, but one Houston company is doing just that.

Gold H2, a spin-off company from Cemvita, has bioengineered subsurface microbes to use in wells to consume carbon and generate clean hydrogen. The technology was piloted two years ago by Cemvita, and now, as its own company with a new CEO, it's safe to say Gold H2's on its way.

"First of all, that was groundbreaking," Prabhdeep Singh Sekhon, CEO of Gold H2, says of the 2022 pilot in the Permian Basin, "to be able to use bugs to produce hydrogen within a couple of days."

"2024 is supposed to be the year where Gold H2 takes off," Sekhon, who joined the company in April, tells the Houston Innovators Podcast. "It was one of those opportunities that I couldn't turn down. I had been following the company. I thought, 'here is this innovative tech that's on the verge of providing a ground-breaking solution to the energy transition — what better time to join the team.'"

Sekhon shares on the show how his previous roles at NextEra Energy Resources and Hess have prepared him for Gold H2. Specifically, as a leader on NextEra’s strategy and business development team, he says he was tasked with figuring out what the energy industry looks like in the next five, 10, and 20 years.

"Green hydrogen was a huge buzz, but one of the things I realized when I started looking at green hydrogen was that it's very expensive," Sekhon says. "I wanted to look at alternatives."

This journey led him to what Cemvita was doing with gold hydrogen, Sekhon says, explaining that the ability to use biotechnology to provide a new revenue stream from the mostly used up wells struck him as something with major potential.

"The idea of repurposing existing oil and gas assets to become hydrogen assets, leveraging current infrastructure to drive down overall deliver costs — to me I thought, 'wow, if they can make this works, that's brilliant,'" he says.

Now, as CEO, Sekhon gets to lead the company toward these goals, which include expanding internationally. He explains on the show that Gold H2 is interested in expanding to any part of the world where there's interest in implementing their biotech. In order to support the growth, Sekhon says they are looking to raise funding this year with plans for an additional round, if needed, in 2025.

"When we compare our tech to the rest of the stack, I think we blow the competition out of the water," Sekhon says, explaining that Gold H2's approach to gold hydrogen development is novel when you look at emerging technology in the space. "We're using a biological process — cheap bugs that eat oil for a living."

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.