Lessons from the oil industry skills shortage

February 24, 2019

Source: Benjamin Child/Unsplash

The majority of oil and gas professionals claimed that engineering was the function most likely to be affected by the impending talent crunch in the GETI report.

This sentiment is shared by managers in EngineeringUK’s State of Engineering report, which stated 61% of managers were lacking confidence that they could address skills gaps and predicted an annual shortfall of 59,000 unfilled roles.

Despite this, The World Economic Forum expects growth in engineering job postings to increase rapidly by 2.7% each year, with only computing roles experiencing stronger growth.

Why are these roles so hard to fill? And why is it impacting the oil and gas industry specifically?

Amongst those positions that energy companies are finding hard to fill are jobs focusing on software, data collection, and other tasks that are increasing in importance thanks to the “connected” professional applications offered by the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Forrester research shows that, to attract people who have a serious depth of technological understanding, for instance, companies may have to pay 20% above the market-rate wage.

Download The 2019 Global Energy Talent IndexVisit the GETI site to download the report

The Industrial Internet of Things

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has been revolutionary for millions across the globe, and its transformative potential for the oil and gas industry is limitless. It can be used to better plan, predict reservoir behaviours, make the workplace safer and provide other incredible commercial benefits, thanks to the massive amount of data oil and gas companies now have at their fingertips.

Industry specialist Mark Venables highlights in Forbes that there is a need for the right people in the industry to handle and analyse that data as effectively and efficiently as possible. And, as seen in the oil industry skills shortage of 2017, these individuals are in short supply and high demand.

Software engineers that handle masses of complex data in such a specialist industry can, understandably, be hard to find.But it is not just IT specialists that engineering firms need. Companies reviewing asset integrity, data governance and process improvement require strategic leaders with a solid understanding of the insights business analytics can provide.

It is important that firms do not treat technology and data as a separate department in silo. It forms an essential aspect of strategic leadership and making the most of existing assets while mitigating cyber risks.

Combine that with the global engineering skills shortage, and companies with strong growth ambitions are suddenly finding themselves with a lot of highly-skilled positions to fill.

Finding you the best talent in a competitive marketplace

It wasn’t too long ago that the oil and gas industry was overstocked with talent. Now, with new opportunities becoming available in new disciplines, it’s up to senior management at energy firms to ensure they’re as agile as possible when it comes to filling those skilled positions.

So, what lessons have companies in the oil and gas industry learned from 2017? How are they working to attract quality talent who grasp the timescale and can hit the ground running?

The Global Energy Talent Index Report 2019, which focuses on the effects of the skills gaps on talent pipelines within the energy industry, provides some interesting insights.

The information we’ve collected from over 17,000 energy professionals is quite revealing in how oil and gas companies across different continents are handling the skills gap, and what they’re doing to change it since the global problem emerged.

In both North America and Europe, for instance, there appears to be a strong sense of companies looking in-house to solve their problems. 61% of GETI respondents in Europe believe the sector should be retraining employees from within to learn new skills to combat a talent crisis, which rises to 67% for North America.

As well as retraining existing staff, North American and European companies are in favour of attracting new talent in the form of graduates and apprentices (33% and 36% respectively for North America, and 33% and 42% in Europe). That approach seems more preferable for North American companies than hiring overseas talent to plug the gap, with only 19% in favour of hiring from abroad.

European and North American companies are both in agreement that the skills they’re looking for most relate to problem-solving and leadership – especially important when it comes to innovation and large-scale digital transformation. They’re willing to offer better training, clearer career progression and better remuneration and benefits to attract that talent.

North American companies appear to be leading the way on this. When asked what benefits they have as part of their employment package, 56% of staffed respondents said they had a retirement or pension plan, while 74% had a health plan. Another 46% get bonuses and commission, whereas in Europe that falls to 52%, 56% and 42% respectively.

Those margins are still tight, though, and shows that companies in the oil and gas industry are working hard to invest more into their existing talent as well as the engineers of the future, providing a brighter outlook for both the individuals and the wider organization.

The Airswift Team, in partnership with Energy Jobline, compiled the GETI 2019 report, a definitive guide for workforce trends in the energy industry. Click the link below to download your copy today.

Download The 2019 Global Energy Talent Index

Visit the GETI site to download the report


This post was written by: Michael Sanches, Consulting Manager – Americas at Airswift