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Insights into the Oil and Gas Workforce of the Future

The Hobby School of Public Affairs and UH Energy at the University of Houston (UH), in partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund, conduced a survey on workforce attitudes towards environmental stewardship practices in the oil and gas sector. The research aimed at understanding how potential employees in the energy industry perceive corporate social responsibility (CSR) and how CSR influences their employment decisions.

The team, led by Pablo M. Pinto, who directs the Center for Public Policy, and Ryan Kennedy, Hobby School research associate and a faculty member in the UH Department of Political Science, surveyed UH students who are likely to consider a future career in the energy industry. Houston is often referred to as the energy capital of the world and has been at the center of innovation in the oil and natural gas business for decades. A total of 608 respondents completed the online survey in April and May, 2018.



 The survey relied upon three complementary strategies:

  • The survey recorded students’ direct responses about their attitudes toward corporate social responsibility (CSR) and environmental stewardship.
  • Respondents were randomly assigned to to read one of two informational conditions about relevant environmental themes, while a third group received a text that was not related to the environment. This setting allowed us to identify how information about environmental practices affects perceptions of environmental issues and initiatives.
  • The research also used a conjoint analysis, an experimental strategy developed in marketing studies, which presented respondents with a choice of two hypothetical job profiles that varied by pay scale, energy sub-industry, and environmental stewardship practices by the hiring company.



The findings suggest that environmental stewardship plays an important role in job choices:

  • A majority of respondents say that CSR plays an important role in their employment decisions.
    • 83.5% of respondents view a company’s CSR standards as very important or important for their employment decisions.
  • A majority of respondents say environmental stewardship practices play an important role in their decision to accept an offer with a company in the oil and gas industry.
    • 54.6% state that a company's environmental stewardship practices are a top priority in their consideration for accepting jobs in the oil and gas industry.
  • When evaluating hypothetical job offers, the importance of environmental stewardship is substantial, even after taking into consideration the type of industry and starting salary offered.
    • The probability that a respondent accepts a job in an oil drilling company that is recognized as a leader in environmental impact mitigation (43.2%) is greater than the probability of accepting a job at a company that is criticized for not meeting minimum standards and offers a salary that is $20,000 higher (41.6%). 
  • Students in technical fields such as petroleum engineering, and students in social science, business and humanities, all view CSR as important to their employment decisions.
    • 39% of engineering students considered it “very important” that a company’s CSR efforts include work to mitigate and reduce pollution; 38.8% of students in other majors agreed. 
  • A majority of respondents think the United States should participate in the Paris Agreement on climate change.
    • 72.5% say the US should participate; 7.8% say the US should not participate; 19.7% said they do not know if the US should participate 
  • A majority of respondents think the United States should use more renewable energy and less fossil fuel in the future.
    • More than nine out of 10 (93.7%) of respondents think the United States should use either much more or somewhat more renewable energy than we currently do.


You can read the entire White Paper, Insights into the Oil and Gas Workforce of the Future, here. 

The study was featured on UH Energy blog, No More Business as Usual for the Oil and Gas Companies.


The report was authored by the Hobby School of Public Affairs in collaboration with UH Energy, and sponsored by the Environmental Defense Fund.

The main researchers were Ryan Kennedy (associate professor in the Department of Political Science, University of Houston) and Pablo M. Pinto (associate professor and director of the Center for Public Policy, Hobby School of Public Affairs, UH).



Contributing Editor, Jeannie Kever
Program Director, Lauren Kibler
Web Developer, Kyle Kinder



The authors would like to acknowledge Ramanan Krishnamoorti, chief energy officer at the University of Houston, and the rest of the research team for this project, including Ching-Hsing Wang and Leonardo Antenangeli, postdoctoral fellows at the Hobby School of Public Affairs; Ulkar Imamverdiyeva, a PhD candidate in Political Science and Hobby School Research Fellow; and Rebecca Cardone, PhD student in Political Science and research associate for the project.



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