Petroleum engineers getting top salaries, perks

Skyrocketing demand for petroleum engineers and other oil and gas workers has companies going to new lengths to lure top talent and keep employees out of competitors’ grasps.

Winning over recruits isn’t just a matter of providing 35 percent salary hikes and $100,000 signing bonuses. Headhunters say company culture and non-monetary perks are gaining sway in attracting and retaining employees.

Stories of eager employers making unique concessions for high-demand job candidates abound. An oil executive started paying for his employees’ shoeshines. Free gasoline and a reinstated pension enticed an experienced project manager back to a former employer. And recently, a company won a senior engineer by making annual $2,000 donations to employees’ favorite charities, said Houston-based David Armendariz, managing partner at executive search firm Lucas Group.

“It’s not just discussing the roles and responsibilities,” he said of sealing the deal with job candidates. “It’s about painting a very clear picture of what life is like at that company.”

The boom in domestic drilling has led to soaring demand for workers experienced in oil and natural gas fields. Some oil companies are giving their employees bonuses as high as $10,000 for referring a successful recruit.

But energy corporations aren’t competing only against each other for the best young technical minds. They’re vying against the well-branded tech business, with its plethora of employee perks and laid-back West Coast cultures, said John Faraguna, the Houston-based North America president for global recruiting firm Hays.
To attract the most innovative engineering minds, Big Oil is emulating one of the Big Tech’s most successful recruiting tools. Exxon Mobil’s new headquarters in north Houston will consolidate its local employees on a 385-acre campus, featuring on-site child care, fitness classes, and other amenities to improve worker lifestyles. Employees are scheduled to start arriving in 2014. 
The campus is designed in the same vein as the Googleplex, the California headquarters of tech giant Google that doubles as an adult playground, with volleyball games, free haircuts and rec rooms. 
“Like Microsoft and Google, they’re thinking about campuses that create an environment and culture that feels like a university,” Faraguna said. “When you consolidate your employees, you can afford to have a really nice health club, day care and cafeteria.”
Most of the major energy companies are well run organizations that attract talented employees.  That they are having to go a step further tells you something about the current growth of the energy business.  I doubt the gender or ethnic studies graduates are getting these kind of offers.

There is something fundamentally happening in the energy business that is pushing this phenomena.  Fracking and directional drilling have opened a lot of possibilities for royalty holders and young professional engineers.  It is too bad we have a President who is blocking these opportunities on federally controlled sites. 


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