One Solution to Drilling’s Generation Gap
As the father of a daughter, I’ve learned a lot of things I wouldn’t have expected to master. For instance, parting hair to achieve the perfect pig-tails. Or, how to select a cute outfit to take a kid out in public when I can barely match my own clothes. OK … so I’m still working on that one, but you get the idea.
But one of the most important things I’ve learned is to watch what I say and do. Every word and action gets sifted through the filter of, is this something that could, if she hears it, end up causing her to limit herself? Success, for me, is her looking at life — professional options, work, relationships — with a sense of possibility.
When she sees a police officer, I let her know she could be one — even a detective or a police chief. She likes to design 3-D models from toothpicks, straws and marshmallows. That sounds like the skills of a budding engineer to me. So, I let her know that little girls can grow up to be engineers and design great things.
Wait, there, Mr. Editor, aren’t you getting a little personal? Yes and no. Upwards of 90 percent of National Driller’s readers are men. But, at least half of the fathers in that audience can relate. Which brings me to today’s point: By many accounts, drilling has a generation gap. Fathers can’t get sons to take over the business. Contractors can’t find enough young workers to get the job done. The baby boomers are aging out of the drilling business and many employers wonder who can replace them.
Women can bridge some of that gap. Field work in the drilling industry can test even hardy men. It’s difficult, unforgiving work. But let’s not sell our sisters and daughters short.
Associate editor Valerie King interviewed Hannah Iezzoni for this month’s You Know the Drill feature (page 50). Iezzoni works for GEI Consultants as a geotechnical engineer. She oversees projects now, but describes finding her passion. “[I was] pretty much drilling really deep holes and I thought it was the best thing I’d ever done,” she told us.
I wrote recently about this on my blog at www.nationaldriller.com. In that post, I commended the Deep Foundations Institute’s Educational Trust, together with the DFI’s women in deep foundations committee, for establishing a professional development grant for women getting started in the field. I’m sure other drilling sectors have mechanisms to encourage women. If not, they should.
Iezzoni isn’t alone. I interviewed a driller a while back whose wife joined him on jobs by training as a mud tech. After I wrote the blog post I mentioned, a mother took the trouble to email me a picture of her teen daughters in front of their dad’s rig — hardhats and all. They’re learning the trade and, just possibly, could help that contractor bridge the generation gap. These extraordinary women are too out of the ordinary. They could use some company in this male-dominated industry.
Look, drilling trades jobs will likely always be dominated by men. I don’t think that’s going to change. But I think that the high average age of workers in the drilling trades presents a problem for the future. It also calls for creative solutions. We need to identify young people early on — men and women — who show aptitude and interest in the drilling industry, get them trained and get them to work.
Iezzoni’s story is one that could make any dad proud. Planted in a field dominated by men, she blossomed into a geotechnical engineer rather than shrink into a wallflower. She even got a graduate degree in the process. That sounds like success to me.
What do you think? Are you a woman working in the drilling trades? Are you mentoring a woman trying to get started in the industry? Send an email to email@example.com, and tell me about it.
Stay safe out there, drillers.