The past three years have been something of a rollercoaster for the energy sector – not just in terms of fluctuating oil and gas prices, but also with regard to hiring trends.
Improvements are however being seen across the industry. At the start of the year, OilCareers.com – a clear barometer of industry hiring trends – experienced a record breaking one million visits in a month, a first since its launch 10 years ago. New figures show that vacancies posted in the first six months of 2011 were 50 per cent higher than for the same period in 2010, while the number of applications made in June 2011 was 60 per cent higher than in June 2010.
As a result of upturn in activity across the industry, oil and gas employers are looking to fill new positions. In August, staffing issues once again hit the headlines, with Norway-listed company, Aker Solutions announcing plans to create 500 new UK jobs over the next year in anticipation of a high future workload. Such occurrences are bringing staffing issues increasingly to the fore.
Countries in emerging and developing regions in particular are seeking to attract talent with the skills to install the appropriate infrastructures to facilitate extraction. Additionally, an increase in the number of operators venturing into new frontiers in shale gas and deep water, matched with increasing demand for LNG and the huge potential reserves identified in the likes of Colombia, Angola and the Barents Sea, brings a need for people with specific experience, particularly in the fields of specialist engineering and in the subsea sector.
Currently, demand for engineers in the industry is highest with 89,688 positions posted on OilCareers.com so far this year. This is in contrast to more than 449,000 candidates who specified engineering as a core capability when registering online.
Many oil and gas professionals feel there is an escalating shortage of technical skills across the industry; a factor that is certain to present challenges in the future if companies do not act now to address a failure to attract, recruit and retrain a knowledgeable skills base amongst the next generation.
In August, BP regional boss Trevor Garlick announced the FTSE 100 company’s intention to recruit between 150 to 300 extra jobs per year to help fuel an expected growth in production. However, he noted that one of the biggest challenges facing the company was finding the right people with the right skills to fill vacant positions.
The negative impact of Macondo has played a role in the declining popularity of a career in the oil and gas sector. Many agree that enhancing the reputation of the oil and gas industry is the key to attracting new graduate recruits in particular, along with those on professional programmes.
There is a general consensus that a mismatch between the skills required by the industry and the actual output from universities needs to be addressed urgently, with courses of greater relevance added to academic curriculums.
This is further aggravated by the diminishing numbers of young people leaving school to pursue a career in engineering and the sciences. However, courses of this nature are not the only means by which to access a career in the oil & gas sector.
The petroleum business presents a vast variety of lucrative, well-paying career choices, including those in project management, sales, accountancy and even marketing. If companies invest more time in raising awareness of the opportunities available in the sector, then this could help to resolve future skills gaps.
As employers compete for talent, the tangible risk of skill shortages suggest that more pressure will be placed on salaries as the industry makes a concerted effort to attract the most capable individuals.
The rising demand for energy is taking exploration, production and distribution of oil and gas to tougher extremes of geography and climate and as a result the future workforce needs to be technically excellent, knowledgeable and geographically diverse; with ambition, intellect, enthusiasm, creativity and passion.
What is clear is that companies need to focus on recruitment right now; ensuring that the right talent is in the right place, for the right price.