Priscilla and I visited an oil rig on a drill ship in the Gulf of Mexico to get a sense of what it's like working in the oil industry.
The rig contains all the technology to drill a hole a few inches wide and 20,000 feet deep under the water, and then install a pipe for the oil to flow up for storage. To do this, the rig must keep perfectly still in the water regardless of wind and waves. They've developed a system of automated thrusters to offset any force so the rig moves at most 1-2 feet even in bad weather. It's very impressive stuff.
The crew on board explained how this work has evolved over the past 20 years. A lot of the work that is now digital used to be done manually by people. I asked if this automation meant they employed fewer people, and they said they now employee more people but those people have higher education degrees and more training. This is a common theme I've heard across industries: demand for highly educated folks is increasing, even with automation, but opportunities for folks with only a high school degree are declining.
Another interesting dynamic relates to oil prices coming down recently because of increased supply. While that's good for us as consumers, it hits employment in these industries. With a volatile market, companies are less likely to make long term investments in expensive oil rigs. That ends up hurting jobs and affecting people in other ways. It's interesting to see how this is all connected and how stable growth is important for everyone.