Top petrochemicals employment trends to look out for in 2024

Ashley Samuelson

By Ashley Samuelson
March 26, 2024

March 26, 2024

0 min read

Source: Pexels/Tom Frisk

Launched in 2017, the Global Energy Talent Index (GETI) Report charts emerging trends across the world’s energy workforce. Since its inception, GETI has depicted insights from thousands of energy professionals to create a comprehensive map of the evolving energy landscape, giving organisations the tools they need to refresh their skills and retain their talent. 

This year’s GETI report takes a deep dive into the rise of artificial intelligence and how it’s reshaping everything in the energy industry, from job roles to skills in demand. 

In this article, we’ll delve into how the petrochemicals industry is currently approaching AI adoption, as well as focus on trends related to salaries, global mobility, and skills demand across the sector.

We've broken down the topics into the following categories:

Salaries have surpassed pre-pandemic levels for the petrochemicals sector 

The GETI report reveals that petrochemicals salaries have soared to pre-pandemic levels. 60% of workers reported an increase in the last year, compared to 50% the year before and 55% before Covid-19. 

The numbers are higher still for hiring managers, with 69% receiving a pay raise in the last year, compared to 65% last year.

However, just because the outlook is good now, it doesn’t mean that firms can afford to get complacent. Both professionals and hiring managers expect greater pay increases in the next year, with 80% and 75% expecting a pay rise, respectively. 

With that in mind, petrochemical companies must regularly check market salaries to stay competitive with compensation. It's also key to use performance-based incentives and bonuses to keep employees motivated, meet their salary expectations, and hold onto top talent.

Petrochemicals remains a globally mobile sector

The petrochemicals sector is as globally mobile as ever, with 81% of professionals considering relocation (close to last year’s percentage of 83%). Europe, followed by the Middle East, is the most popular destination for workers looking to move.


The biggest driver for this is career progression (47%), distantly followed by low cost of living (13%). Those reluctant to relocate cited proximity to family as the biggest blocker (43%). Combined with the high rates of salary satisfaction found in the GETI survey results, it appears that the petrochemicals sector is feeling relatively settled at present. 

Attracting and retaining petrochemicals talent in 2024

Despite appearing fairly settled, 87% of petrochemical professionals surveyed said they are open to moving roles. Most (57%) told us they would stay within the sector, but 45% are open to moving to another energy sector, and 23% would switch to a completely different industry. 

As in previous years, oil and gas is the most attractive sector for those willing to move. However, 38% said they would move to the renewables industry, 5% more than last year. Interest in the renewable energy sector is highest among engineers, with 43% saying they would consider this switch. 

Amidst the clean energy transition, the chemical industry is displaying a growing concern for sustainability, so these results are perhaps unsurprising. It suggests that the energy industry should be working hard to communicate a message of sustainability to attract and retain talent.

To stay ahead in the competition for talent against the oil and gas and renewables sectors, petrochemicals employers need to offer their workforce transparent and structured career advancement opportunities, along with the essential training required to navigate these pathways successfully.

Which digital skills are in demand in the petrochemicals field?

Digitalisation has helped to improve the efficiency of petrochemical operations. For example, by using data analytics, companies are able to monitor their operations in real-time and make adjustments where necessary. This helps to reduce downtime and improve productivity.

In addition, digital tools can be used to create virtual models of facilities that can be used for training purposes. This helps to reduce the need for physical testing and experimentation, which can be expensive and time-consuming.

The most sought-after digital skills in the petrochemicals industry are:

  • Data analytics - the ability to analyse data and identify trends to make better decisions. For example, data analytics can be used to monitor equipment performance and identify areas where improvements can be made.
  • Modelling and simulation - the ability to create virtual models of facilities and processes to test different scenarios. An example of this in petrochemicals would be to test the impact of a new process on the environment, such as how it would affect emissions.
  • Process control - the ability to monitor and control industrial processes to optimise performance. A use case of process control in the petrochemicals sector would be to use sensors to monitor the level of a chemical in a tank and automatically adjust the flow rate accordingly.
  • Automation - the ability to use technology to automate tasks to improve efficiency. In petrochemicals, this could mean using automated processes to carry out tasks such as welding or painting, which would traditionally be done manually.
  • Asset management - the ability to track and manage industrial assets to maximise their value. For example, in petrochemical operations, there may be a need to track the location and condition of pipelines or to monitor the performance of pumps and other equipment.

Demand for workers who possess these skills is high because they can help petrochemical firms improve their operations, reduce costs, and break the mould in comparison to their competitors. The demand for these skills will only grow as the Petrochemicals industry becomes increasingly digitalised. 

How digitalisation has become an opportunity for growth in energy recruitment 

Digitalisation has had a positive impact on energy recruitment. In the past, recruiting for the energy sector was challenging due to growing skills shortages, a geographically distributed talent pool and regulatory challenges in many emerging markets. 

However, with the increased digital skills across the industry, energy firms can now access a larger pool of candidates. This is because the flux of digital skills means companies can overcome geographical barriers through remote working and recruiting from the tech industry, where digital skills are more prevalent. 

And not to mention also the vast options of partnerships in the recruitment area. The digital revolution simplifies the decision to engage with services like Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) and Managed Service Provision (MSP). Both solutions are even more attractive when remote work is already widespread and part of the company's culture.

All of this is helping to meet the growing demand for employees across the energy market.

How the petrochemicals sector is embracing AI 

Although 58% of petrochemicals workers don’t use AI, 30% are already doing so, and 8% expect to within the next six months. 

Encouragingly, a third of petrochemicals respondents told us that their workplace already has an AI policy in place, and only 13% are unsure as to whether their company has such a document. In the organisations that do have an AI policy, the focus is typically on explaining the benefits and goals of using AI, and maintaining data protection, integrity and security. 

When it comes to the AI tools currently being used by the petrochemicals workforce, the most popular are machine learning, generative AI such as ChatGPT, robotic process automation and artificial general intelligence. 

There doesn’t seem to be a clear winner among these tools, however, the top use cases for them are automated workflow and collaboration and safety and inspection improvements. This is encouraging in such a hazardous sector, as it’s clear that companies are embracing new technologies as a strategy to enhance safety. Airswift CEO Janette Marx notes, “Both petrochemicals and oil and gas are hazardous industries, and it’s good to see that for professionals in these sectors, one of the first impulses is to explore how new technologies can help keep people safe.”

As is the case in all sectors, the petrochemicals workforce highlighted several challenges faced by AI adoption. The number one concern stipulated in the report is a lack of soft skills, followed by insufficient investment in AI applications.

41% of workers are also worried about the lack of human or personal touch posed by AI, and 35% have concerns about the potential lack of training, which could lead to misuse or poor adoption. Another 26% are worried about cyber security. Of all those surveyed, just 13% were confident there would be no risks. 

That said, the sector is among the most optimistic when using AI in the future, as 51% say they are ‘very optimistic’. Furthermore, almost a third of professionals believe that AI will help the sector to organise products, services and solutions. A quarter feels that it will play a pivotal role in driving research, development and innovation, and another quarter hopes it will reduce the cost of labour. There are also high expectations around predictive analytics and forecasting, reduced production and operating costs and higher critical thinking and creativity levels. 

Download the full GETI 2024 report

Would you like to learn more about power employment trends expected to shape the sector in 2024? Get all the latest insights and information on trends across the rest of the energy industry in the 2024 GETI report. Download it today.  

Download the GETI report 2024

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