Battle for Manpower by jennyyingdi


                                                                                                                  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

          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

   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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