Refining the US petrochemical talent pipeline

May 27, 2019

Source: Kalyakan/Stock adobe

Things are looking good for the petrochemicals sector. Investment is booming. Confidence is high. Innovation is rife. Since 2010, there have been over 300 planned chemical projects in the US, which can be linked to the shale boom.

This trend looks set to continue with surplus gas expected in the coming years. This US success story will see products exported globally to Latin America, Europe and Asia.

As the oil and gas sector has slowed, the petrochemical sector has been able to pick up its exiting talent helping to deliver this growth. The petrochemical industry has also heavily invested in apprenticeships and graduate schemes to ensure a pipeline of new recruits. It will need to keep this focus on future skills to make the most of its current opportunities.

Findings from the recent Global Energy Talent Index (GETI) suggest a tale of two halves when it comes to petrochemical talent. Nearly 50 percent of respondents worry about an impending skills gap, but the results paint a different picture between older and younger respondents. 37 percent of under 24s worry about an impending talent crisis, compared to 58 percent of 45 to 54-year olds.


The concern over whether a skills gap or not is on the horizon isn’t the only area where the two age groups disagree. The type of future skills needed is also up for debate. Younger professionals worry about interpersonal and analytical skills. By contrast, those nearer to retirement worry about the leadership skills gap that could be emerging.

So, how can companies prepare for the future and sustain momentum in the petrochemical sector?


1. Continue with graduate schemes and apprenticeships

The sector has had significant success in bringing in young talent to the sector. And, what’s more they’re happy to be there. Over 80 percent of under 24s would pursue a career in the sector now, if starting again. But the sector can’t afford to get complacent. By continuing to focus on graduate schemes and apprentices, the sector will maintain its strong talent pipeline.


2. Nurture transferable skills

The sector has already benefited from the oil and gas downturn. However, transferable skills could be key to ensuing a strong talent pipeline in the future. Oil and gas still holds the biggest pool of willing recruits with 31 percent of respondents open to moving to petrochemicals. This is followed by renewables (six percent) and power (five percent).


3. Focus on culture

As a thriving sector, word-of-mouth has helped to encourage new workers to join the industry. However, company culture is becoming another key factor in professionals’ decision making. Staff are increasingly concerned about work-life balance, career progression and company values when picking their next role. The dynamism of the sector needs to be reflected in the company so staff can continue to promote the benefits of working in the sector effectively.

Overall, petrochemicals is in great shape. It has a vibrant pipeline of new projects and new recruits eager to work on them. As the oil price recovers and upstream wages with it, the sector needs to ensure it can retain the staff it picked up during the downturn. The full-steam ahead approach to new work needs to be equally applied to refining the pipeline of incoming talent to ensure a smooth future.

bottom banner

This post was written by: Michael Sanches, Client Partner Management at Airswift