Sector's image hits new oil and gas recruits

Written by
Anamaria Deduleasa

Published
01 May 2019

01 May 2019 • by Anamaria Deduleasa

Recruiters look to appeal of digitalisation and energy transition challenges

Anamaria Deduleasa

London

1 May 2019 22:00 GMT Updated 3 May 2019 14:27 GMT

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Industry observers have been warning of an upcoming skills shortage in the oil and gas business, the result of significant job cuts during the oil price downturn that pushed many industry professionals and their expertise towards other sectors.

This expected skills gap is nothing new to the industry, as historically the flow of talent in and out of the sector has corresponded with the economic cycle.

During a downturn, companies would pull back on university recruitment, graduate schemes and apprenticeships, so the influx of young talent would slow.

Once the oil price would recover, companies would poor resources back into their recruitment programmes.

However, what is new this time around is the generation the industry is now dealing with, as the skills gap may now be exacerbated by the fact that fewer young people are interested in joining the industry.

This is due in part to a perception of the oil and gas industry as dangerous, environmentally damaging and plagued by volatile spending cycles.

Nonetheless, experts are expressing confidence that digitalisation can help the industry address the skills challenge by bringing new jobs to the sector that focus on sustainability, embrace safety, push for diversity and keep costs under control.

Confidence

According to a survey from consultancy DNV GL, 34% of the industry professionals polled expect headcount to rise this year, which is a sharp increase from 20% in 2018 and 10% in 2015, at the lowest point of the downturn.

But while a return to hiring is a welcome sign of industry confidence, there will be clear challenges associated with growing headcount after a period of significant cuts, analysts say.

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“Skills pressures are now firmly back on the agenda, rising sharply in our survey to take joint second place in the industry’s barriers to growth. This comes alongside concerns about the oil price and the state of the global economy, and just behind the challenge of competitive pressures,” DNV GL says.

“This skills gap hits hardest in Europe and North America (both 25%). In the UK, 39% see this issue as the greatest barrier to growth for 2019, the highest of any country.

“By contrast, concern is lowest in Latin America (10%), and the Middle East and North Africa (15%), despite having local content restrictions in place, while nearly one in five (18%) in Asia-Pacific is feeling the squeeze,” it said.

Liv Hovem, chief executive of DNV GL Oil & Gas, says: “We need to ask ourselves how we expect to attract the talent that will be required to deliver as activity picks up again. Who would like to join our industry so soon after it dramatically cut so many people?”

Millennials are much more digitally savvy than previous generations, and the so-called Generation Z — those born in this century — are even more so.

This generation did not need to adapt to the “internet revolution” and digitalisation of things — they were part of it.

Therefore, as a generation that takes the latest technological advances for granted, they should be racing towards the industry.

Perception

However, according to a report from consultancy EY, the industry suffers from perception issues in relation to young people, who are “disincentivised to pursue careers in oil and gas by concerns about the longevity of the industry and a perceived harmfulness to society”.

According to EY’s survey, 62% of Generation Z (ages 16-19) found the prospect of a career in oil and gas “unappealing,” while 44% of millennials (ages 20-35) said careers in the industry do not appeal to them.

The younger generation appears to be snubbing the industry, more so than the previous generation before them, because they want their work to have a positive contribution on society and the world.

Also, millennials seek different job perks than previous generation sought.

The EY survey revealed that while salary is the top driver for young people at 56%, work-life balance is a close second at 49%, and job stability and on-the-job happiness matters for over 30% of EY’s respondents.

Therefore, Hovem says, it is “vital” for the industry to help young engineers understand the role that the oil and gas industry will play in decarbonising the world’s energy system and the contributions they could make to changing the way the sector operates.

“Decarbonisation will become a prevailing theme of the oil and gas industry over the coming decades. Those working in our industry will have an incredible opportunity to influence that trend,” she says.

Janette Marx, chief executive of staffing company Airswift, says: “The Millennial generation needs to feel that they are impacting the world, that they are doing something that makes them better. They also want to grow and continue their development throughout their careers. They don’t want to be in the same role for years and years. They want to develop a lot of different skills, and want to be challenged in different ways.”

According to Marx, rotation programmes have proven to help with retention, as well as providing workers with a better understanding of the company and the necessary work required.

“These generations change jobs quite rapidly compared to the previous generations because they want to know that they are constantly challenged. When they are not, they move on,” she says.

“Once (millennials) get down one part of their job they are ready to move on to another section.”

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