Overcoming the oil and gas workforce hurdle in Africa

Is African oil and gas production limited by a skills gap?

Africa has been a major focus for the oil and gas sector for decades. This began with the discovery of significant Algerian and Nigerian resources in 1956. Considerable opportunities await the region. But this requires addressing the local skills gap with education programmes. Workforce providers can support these programmes for all professionals from entry to managerial.

 Below are a few key facts about the regions energy economy

  • 20 African countries are significant producers of oil and/or gas
  • Nigeria alone produced over 2.5 million barrels of oil a day last year. The country has produced over USD$85 billion worth of gas in the last 15 years
  • Discoveries in Ghana, Tanzania, Mozambique and Uganda have enhanced optimism for both professionals and hiring managers

To meet its potential, the region needs to source workforce numbers and skills. This is a challenge many hiring managers and producers are grappling with.

Optimism and opportunity in African oil and gas

The oil and gas sector has had a muted few years, but optimism is growing, especially within Africa. Our Global Energy Talent Index (GETI), surveyed energy sector professionals and hiring managers . The results revealed that Africa has the second most optimistic global workforce. 47 per cent of candidates surveyed expect the market to recover within the next 12 months. Their optimism is influenced by stable prices and reduced costs ensuring project viability.

This perceived recovery may be due to a few factors. Reducing production costs and de-escalation of border disputes play a small part. A larger factor is the sheer number of projects on the horizon, including:

  • Eni/ExxonMobil’s Coral Field project in Mozambique is a significant LNG development. The project will start production by 2020 with an estimated investment of USD$8bn.
  • The 1,443-kilometre crude export pipeline project from Hoima, Uganda through Tanzania. The value of the project approaching upwards of USD$3.5bn.

However, a potential skills shortage represents a significant hurdle in the way

These projects will create huge demand for talent in the oil and gas sector and related sectors. Less developed economies, including Uganda and Mozambique, will require infrastructure investment. This will have a positive impact on economic development.

It will also increase the need for talent and widen the skills gap further.

The hurdle: a growing skills shortage and increased demand

85 per cent of GETI respondents believe there is a skills shortage within African oil and gas and this is a potential bottleneck in the industry.  So how will these projects succeed?

The skills shortage is compounded by a small pool of homegrown talent. These can be difficult to achieve and some require local talent to comprise 80 per cent of the workforce. The lack of talent can be seen at all levels. Engineers, project managers and lower-level labouring jobs are all in short supply. The challenge can be felt across the region. Major projects already underway in Ghana, Mozambique, Kenya and Uganda are affected most.

Then there’s the sheer scale of the issue. There is a huge variety of projects that are in the pipeline. This includes the USD$16 billion Egina field development in Nigeria. Plans are also underway for the USD$7 billion Offshore Cape Three Points project in Ghana. The huge manpower requirements mean it’s not a small shortfall of talent. The Egina project alone will mean Total almost doubling its workforce in Africa.

Transferable skills

Part of the solution is to find transferable skills from related industries. These skills could include technical ability, problem solving, people management and sales negotiation. However, adaptable workers are in short supply, so the right training is crucial.

Transferable skills can also bolster the talent pool in other industries. The infrastructure and process sectors will boom as a result of new oil and gas projects. In turn this will help that workforce transition to supporting broader economic development.

Workforce solutions providers can address the African skill shortage within oil and gas.

Making the jump: education programmes for local talent

The workforce needs upskilling; more importantly the local workforce needs upskilling. The benefits are twofold: narrowing the skill gap and meeting local content rules.

There are several essential education initiatives to be undertaken.

  • providing the basic knowledge for entry level jobs
  • upskilling the workforce for higher-level managerial or engineering jobs
  • providing transferable skills, training and mentoring programs

By upskilling and investing in local workers, the long-term benefits will be huge. Operators can save money through wage arbitration and reduced relocation packages for expats.

Upskilling must start with education, with schools incorporating necessary skills into the syllabus. Programmes should address all levels through to university level and graduate training schemes. Some mentoring programmes are even taking employees overseas for additional industry based training.

The role of workforce solutions providers

Workforce providers need to play their part to upskill local workforces too. Providers with regulation, talent mapping, and nationalisation expertise help firms design localisation plans. As a global workforce solutions provider, Airswift supports local training and mentoring programs. Specialist, international workers can provide expertise and mentorship to local workforce. Operators benefit by accessing the necessary talent. Workers themselves gain transferable skills they can take into other upcoming sectors. This improves their long-term career prospects and boosting local economies.

The success of these projects will come down to having the right talent in the right place at the right time. A situation the workforce solutions industry is uniquely positioned to facilitate

Read more about workforce trends in the energy sector in the GETI report


This post was written by Richard Clay, Business Development Director for Africa at Airswift