Older LAGCOE hands counsel younger oil-and-gas industry workers: ‘Look, you’re not in this alone. We’ve been in these cycles’ _lowres

Advocate staff file photo by LESLIE WESTBROOK -- The 2015 LAGCOE Looey hardhat is on display during a Louisiana Gulf Coast Oil Exposition (LAGCOE) luncheon to name the 36th LAGCOE Looey on Aug. 3, 2015, at the Petroleum Club in Lafayette, La. The LAGCOE Looey title holder's responsibilities include greeting guests during the exposition and being an ambassador for LAGCOE during the two years for which the title is held.

The three-day Louisiana Gulf Coast Oil Exhibition in Lafayette next month will have a different tone than LAGCOE 2013, when the industry was rocking and rolling and constantly on the lookout for qualified employees.

This year’s LAGCOE will reflect the industry’s current $45-per-barrel-of-oil doldrums that have thrown tens of thousands out of work and erased company profits: Keynote speakers at the Oct. 27-29 exhibition will offer advice on how companies can survive; seminars that accompany the LAGCOE Career Fair will focus on creating winning résumés and strategies to get that interview; and the industry’s younger professionals in their first down cycle are being advised to hang in there.

“Obviously, since two years ago … the landscape of the industry has changed significantly,” LAGCOE Executive Director Angela Cring said.

Cring said the economic downturn led to canceled reservations by many of the exhibitors among hundreds of service companies that set up displays inside and outside the Cajundome and Convention Center.

And many of the companies that had been in the long waiting list to exhibit at LAGCOE opted to defer until the next show in October 2017. Cring said her office continues to try to fill in the vacant display slots.

“I feel like we’re going to get there (at capacity), but it’ll probably be at the last second,” she said.

The current climate also will likely affect the number of companies that take part in the career fair this year. Cring said only 10 companies have registered so far to set up hiring booths, but she added that “most companies don’t sign up until just before the event.”

LAGCOE keynote speakers are planning presentations that are timely: On Oct. 27, Chesapeake Energy CEO and President Doug Lawler will give an industry outlook for 2016. On Oct. 28, Frank’s International CEO and President Gary Luquette, formerly head of Chevron North America, will give a speech titled “Surviving and Prospering in a Difficult Market.”

Cring said LAGCOE planners have tried to mold the event to adapt to industry changes. They’ve expanded the career fair to by adding more job-search seminars, including for military veterans and others needing work. Seminar topics include leveraging LinkedIn and a winning résumé to get an interview, and standing out during an interview.

Other changes since 2013 include expanding LAGCOE’s mentoring efforts that bring together industry old timers and younger oil and gas hands in the Young Professionals of LAGCOE.

Cring said LAGCOE 2015 will feature a lounge that will serve as a meet-and-greet area for older LAGCOE alumni and those younger.

“It’s a place for two groups to go at any point during the show and mingle,” Cring said. “You never know what conversations will happen in that room that will lead to something in the future.”

LAGCOE’s mentoring programs are an effort to bring in and keep a young generation to an industry that, although it’s laying off workers by the thousands, desperately needs the new blood.

Charlie Moncla, a veteran driller who this year holds the trade show’s ambassador LAGCOE Looey title, said the industry will lose a few of the younger employees who get laid off or exit oil and gas because of the severe swings. Others will persevere, he said.

“When they get the oilfield in their blood, there are those who will stay in the industry through thick and thin,” Moncla said.

Will “Tully” Blanchard, an oilfield salesman and committee chairman of Young Professionals of LAGCOE, said the expanded mentoring programs have helped keep the younger professionals from leaving.

“I don’t sense that they’ll leave the business,” he said. “I sense an enthusiasm and a resiliency and the confidence that (the industry) will rebound.”

Jim Doré, LAGCOE chairman of the Alumni Committee with decades in the industry, said his group of old-timers have seen multiple industry dips, and counsels the younger ones to ride it out.

“The message from alumni is ‘look, you’re not in this alone. We’ve been in these cycles,’” Doré said. “Let us help you get around the potholes that we’ve already maneuvered through.”