As Big Crew Change Begins, Oil Companies Struggle to Hold on to Institutional Memory

The oil and natural gas industry is facing a wave of retirements over the next several years — a trend known as "the big crew change." But some analysts are saying companies need to do more than simply finding enough replacements.

Between hydraulic fracturing and offshore drilling, the U.S. is producing more oil and gas than it has in decades. That's creating a huge demand for new workers, just as much of the current workforce is getting ready to leave.

"This couldn't happen at a worse time."

Chad Hawkinson is vice president of product design at IHS.

He says seasoned workers represent institutional memory — memory that companies aren't taking enough steps to preserve.

"Engineers as a profession don't like to document things. English and writing is usually not the focus of an engineer. So how do we get to improve the documentation? How do we capture that knowledge in the first place?"

That knowledge can often make a big difference in efficiency for companies. Among other things, it can save younger workers considerable time and expense if they can learn from others' mistakes rather than their own.

Bio photo of Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Business Reporter

Andrew Schneider joined KUHF in January 2011, after more than a decade as a print reporter for The Kiplinger Letter...