Feature By Dianne Sutherland Chief Editor Battle for Manpower A critical shortage of skilled labor is plaguing nearly all sectors of the oil and gas industry. Over nearly the past decade it has become increasingly apparent that industry must do something to address the issue and while some progress has been made, much more needs to be done. Many companies have resorted to poaching while others have come up with very innovative ideas. The Problem across several disciplines – geophysical, tradeshows, and industry social events has T he real sense of urgency in the engineering, drilling, subsea, production, become commonplace as well as outbidding industry is in that most of the skilled development – and that’s just the upstream, the competition, driving industry wages to workers are over 45 years of age and it makes the task at hand that much more all time highs in the most technical executive fast closing in on retirement which on average difficult. With the burgeoning energy demand positions. Corporate execs are often heard comes at between 55-60 years in the industry. and increasingly technically challenging complaining about what supermajor A offered Add to this the fact that the current pool of drilling operations, what is most ominous is its prized Field Development Manager to go highly skilled workers from age 30-40 to that there are just not enough people to Angola when they had him on their Super- replace these retirees is very small in the oil physically to do the developmental work. independent premium plan in Algeria. It’s a and gas sector as compared to other industry workers market for sure and often times the segments. There are varied reasons as to While grassroots efforts to attract young lure of big bucks and corporate perks are too why the selection from that age pool is so genius have greatly picked up the pace at good to turn down, especially when one has low, but one popular theory is because the university level, filling the gap in the middle school-aged children and is looking to stash perception of an engineering career to over the next 10-15 years with personnel some money into the college education fund. impressionable youngsters considering their qualified to make important corporate And for those more experienced hands, they futures became boring over the last three decisions, or, more critical in-the-field can practically name their price and perks, decades. Youth nowadays do not find a career decisions at a moments notice, is going to be anything from three-day work weeks to as appliance/equipment repairman or the extremely difficult. So just what are oil and the choice of country club they want to golf grease of being a machinery mechanic, as an services companies doing to keep their talent at. And to all goes a hefty hardship pay interesting or desirable career path, and that pools filled? consideration when based in less is what many perceive the engineering hospitable locations. profession as being. Other reasons include To be frank, often the manpower war is not negative perceptions of the oil industry from pretty. Outright head hunting at conferences, Recruitment Tactics the greenies, lack of local labor availability There are currently many drives to lure talent. as oil exploration and production have A bundle is being spent on recruitment expanded into less-traditional territory without With the burgeoning energy advertisements which can be seen not only existing labor forces, and a general apathy, demand and increasingly in print, but online, television, and radio. One or lack of forethought, from the oil industry new radio advertisement came from Baker technically challenging Oil Tools in Houston. This particular itself back in the 1970s and 80s. And last but not least, the battle to secure energy reserves drilling operations, what is recruitment ad was obviously not for a has resulted in an upturn in exploration in most ominous is that there are glamorous job in the North Sea as it indicated technically more challenging locations. just not enough people one of the benefits was working in a climate physically to do the controlled atmosphere, but rather in a Houston Given that the oil industry is very technically developmental work. plant. However, the idea is good. Get those complex and requires numerous specialties radio spots between 6-8 am while all are in Petroleum Africa February 2007 35 Feature commute, coffee in hand, add a catchy jingle had to turn six firms away, such was the real numbers. Schlumberger coordinated with and they will be thinking about you all day. demand for places.” A Cameron executive 115 universities worldwide accounting for commented “We spoke to 52 people on 70% of those universities with an active One of the most unique campaigns noted was the day, mainly skilled in electrical and petroleum curriculum, to accurately assess being undertaken by Halliburton which began mechanical engineering, and received a further the number of global graduates entering the the Employee Referral Program. You refer a seven CVs.” Of the 52, the firm will be workforce from petroleum engineering and friend. Your friend gets a job at Halliburton. interviewing 35 prospects. geosciences majors. SBC went even further You get paid. That is the gist of the Halliburton with the survey and collaborated with 30 Employee Referral Program. While most of these programs might fill a international oil & gas companies and with few vacancies, make your current employees the data obtained was able to quantify the There are scores of clever, eye-catching print happy with a few extra bucks in their following: ads being run by the industry seeking to attract pocket or a friend by their side, they only applicants. The catchier the ad, the better a address the short-term needs of a company the number of graduates produced by firm’s chance at success! Internet sites and do not address a mid- or long-term universities globally covering the industry are all springing up solution. What many such programs do is the number expected to join the industry with career centers that allow applicants to transfer the technical personnel shortage to by country post their resumes/CVs, and search the ample another company or segment of the industry. the size of the current pool of petroleum job listings offered by the world’s top firms. So what really needs to be done? technical professionals And head hunting firms are seeing their glory the growth in demand for people days with oil industry clients. Although not What to Do, What to Do the availability of mid-careers flaunted in investor relations reports, oil The obvious answer for the long-term is at the number of people retiring or leaving companies with deep pockets are actually the educational level and in enhancing the the technical ladder acquiring smaller companies not just to pick image of the oil industry in the eyes of the up some reserves without using the drill bit public. The former is already underway on a From the survey SBC arrived at some very or to pick up additional exploration assets, large-scale with industry pamphlets decorating interesting conclusions. One conclusion found but also to add to their workforces. the career centers of universities and high that there are currently both regional technical schools. Industry and education, worldwide, expertise deficits (North America, Middle Other schemes are underway by the are working closely to attract youth and East, Russia) and surpluses (Asia, South recruiting companies looking to cash in on address the long-term needs of the industry. America), which will remain over the coming the dearth of oil industry talent. One such For the mid-term, a real technology transfer ten years. This finding would suggest an effort brought together oil industry must begin taking place now before the obvious course of action however, the surplus human resources executives with applicants experts are all retired. Most companies are will only go so far and will by no means meet from other industries with potentially already keenly aware of this and those that the requirements of the entire industry. transferable skills. The Urquhart Partnership, have the resources have begun mentoring an Aberdeen based firm which specializes in programs between the experienced and new With these findings and based on existing human resources, recruitment and training, potential talent. The Urquhart scheme also mid-term challenges, SBC came up with a reported the event was a great success has merit; if a big drive to lure potential model management action plan which rests with 22 leading firms which included the employees from an outside sector to the on five main principles an operator needs to likes of Smith International, Cameron, Wood energy sector were successful, the mentoring focus on – planning future needs, inflow, Group Engineering, and Subsea7, meeting scheme could be taken to a higher level. For integration and development, allocation and with 2,000 applicants. Karen Reid, Business the latter, campaigns like Chevron’s Will You utilization, and outflow. With this model SBC Development Director for the firm said, “The Join Us and BP’s efforts to promote a greener put together a tactical strategy which can be event, which was considered by many to be image, are looking to improve oil company long overdue, was a huge success. We even images and public perception. Good corporate citizenship is another new buzz Even if there were an Corporate execs are often phrase industry players are using to enhance abundance of talent waiting heard complaining about their images. in the wings, recruiting is a what supermajor A offered time consuming process its prized Field A different solution for the medium-term is when you are looking to needed however. Schlumberger Business matriculate 100s, and in Development Manager to Consulting (SBC) undertook a major survey go to Angola when they had some cases 1000s of on quantifying the supply & demand of global him on their Super- petrotechnical expertise. While the main qualified personnel like independent premium plan challenges facing energy firms are not lost many of the E&P and in Algeria. on the rest of the industry, this survey goes services companies are. a step further at identifying the challenges in Petroleum Africa February 2007 36 tailored to fit any given firm, and SBC is Those in the industry might be easily lured hone in the best they can on their current and currently providing services to oil companies to jump ship if their current companies are future exploration and development plans, to help them intelligently identify and address not keeping trend with the big boys so to matching staffing needs to it, and then putting their mid-term needs. speak. It’s both an executive and blue collar a tangible plan in place. So for now, be sure worker’s market these days. You can nearly to update your data bases daily, for whomever Riding the Storm Out name your rate and companies are tripping The overlying conclusion that all can be sure over themselves to get experienced personnel is with Super Salary Employer A today, may of at present is that a shift in corporate into their systems. The only viable plan for very likely be with Part Time & Perks mentality to addressing its human resource the mid-term would require companies to Employer B tomorrow. needs must take place, and quick, if it is going to survive the coming technical talent drought. Even if there were an abundance of talent waiting in the wings, recruiting is a time consuming process when you are looking to matriculate 100s, and in some cases 1000s of qualified personnel like many of the E&P and services companies are. You will rarely hear a figure of less than 100 needed staff additions by any medium to large size company. The subsea sector alone needs 1,000 new engineers at present and 3,000 engineers in the coming five years according to the Robert Gordon University (RGU). To tackle the dearth of talent in the subsea sector, RGU has launched a course that will be delivered as part of a national initiative by Subsea UK, an industry organization, to attract engineers from other industries into the subsea oil and gas sector. Another unique plan, but coming up with 3,000 potentials does not happen overnight either.
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