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Pandemic disrupts young oil careers


By Clifford Krauss

© The New York Times Co.

HOUSTON » Sabrina Burns, a senior at the University of Texas at Austin, had thought she would be launching a lucrative career in the oil and gas industry when she graduated in a few months.

But the collapse in the demand for oil and gas during the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted her well-laid plans and is forcing her to consider a new path.

“We got a slap in the face, an entirely unforeseen situation that rocked our entire mindset,” said Burns, who is studying petroleum engineering. “I have applied for every oil and gas position I’ve seen, like all my classmates, and nothing really has turned up. I’m discouraged.”

With fewer people commuting and traveling, the oil and gas industry has taken a punishing blow. Oil companies have laid off more than 100,000 workers. Many businesses have closed refineries, and some have sought bankruptcy protection.

The industry has attracted thousands of young people in recent years with the promise of secure careers as shale drilling took off and made the United States the world’s largest producer of oil. But many students and recent graduates say they are no longer sure that there is a place for them in the industry. Even after the pandemic ends, some of them fear that growing concerns about climate change will lead to the inevitable decline of oil and gas.

These students are seeking elite positions in an oil and gas industry. 




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