Solving the oil and gas skills gap amidst the great crew change

July 19, 2023

solving the skills gap in the oil in gas industry

As the O&G industry experiences a lack of new talent, learning about new approaches is crucial

The oil and gas sector encompasses a wide range of activities, from exploration and production to refining and distribution. Each of these requires a specific set of skills and expertise. However, as the industry becomes more complex and specialised, finding individuals with the necessary qualifications becomes increasingly difficult.

Before we look at solutions, it's important to ask: why is the oil and gas industry, one of the largest and most successful industries of the past century, facing such huge challenges when it comes to recruitment? Below are some of the commonly agreed route causes.

The Great Crew Change

The Great Crew Change refers to the impending retirement of the baby boomer generation in the oil and gas industry and the challenges that come with replacing their knowledge and experience. As more and more baby boomers reach retirement age, the industry is facing what is often referred to as a "knowledge gap" or "skills gap."

Currently, the age distribution of workers in the oil and gas industry presents a concerning picture. According to the GETI report, only 4% of workers in the industry are aged between 18-24, while a staggering 20% of workers are above the age of 55. This suggests that a large proportion of the workforce is nearing retirement age, leaving a gap that needs to be filled with younger, inexperienced workers.

The retirement of baby boomers is particularly challenging because they possess decades of experience and knowledge that is not easily replaceable. Their expertise is critical in ensuring operational efficiency, safety, and decision-making. The loss of this expertise could potentially have a profound impact on the industry's ability to function effectively.

Fewer millennials choose oil and gas

One major challenge is the changing priorities of younger workers. Unlike previous generations, younger workers prioritise factors like work-life balance, opportunities for innovation, and career growth. The oil and gas industry has traditionally been known for demanding work schedules and limited work-life balance, making it less appealing to younger professionals who value personal and family life. This shift in priorities makes it increasingly difficult for the industry to attract and retain young talent.

Travel and immigration restrictions also exacerbate the problem. The oil and gas industry often requires professionals to work in remote or international locations. However, with increased restrictions on travel and immigration, potential candidates may be hesitant to pursue careers that involve frequent travel or relocation.

Additionally, widening the selection pool is a challenge in itself. The industry has traditionally relied on a relatively small pool of professionals with specific technical skills. To attract new talent, the industry needs to widen its selection criteria and consider candidates with transferable skills from other industries.

How can hiring managers bridge the skills gap?

The skills gap in oil and gas poses a serious problem for hiring managers and other decision-makers in the industry. Many of the individuals responsible for recruitment decisions are already at the coalface, managing teams while keeping projects moving and within budget. This can make it even more difficult to seamlessly source talent without impacting time and costs.

A number of companies in the industry have already identified the problems with the skills gap, with GETI data showing the approaches they're taking to try and solve the problem. Pay has risen for non-hiring professionals since our last report, with 44% of workers reporting a rise in remuneration compared to 31% last year. 

oil and gas payroll increase

The skills gap is a problem that money alone can't solve, however, and the oil and gas industry has recognised this and now needs to introduce other strategies besides higher pay. 

Upskill Your Team

By providing comprehensive and targeted training opportunities, companies can not only enhance the skills of their workforce but also address the talent gap created by the retirement of experienced workers.

There are several benefits to training existing employees. Firstly, it leads to improved performance and increased productivity. Through ongoing training, employees can stay up-to-date with the latest industry practices, technologies, and regulations. This equips them with the knowledge and skills necessary to perform their jobs efficiently and effectively.

skills gap in oil and gas insight

It is important to note that effective training programs should incorporate both theoretical and practical aspects. While theoretical knowledge is essential, hands-on experience is equally crucial in the oil and gas industry. Training programs should provide opportunities for employees to apply their new skills in real-life scenarios to enhance their learning and confidence.

Tech automation streamlines O&G processes

Automating processes that require tech-savviness in the oil and gas industry can bring about numerous benefits, but it also presents some drawbacks that need to be considered.

One major benefit of automation is improved safety. By automating repetitive and hazardous tasks, companies can reduce the risk of accidents and injuries. Machines can handle tasks such as pipeline inspections or remote monitoring of equipment in dangerous environments, minimising human exposure to potential hazards.

Automation also enhances data analytics capabilities. With the ability to collect and analyse vast amounts of data in real-time, machines can provide valuable insights for decision-making and operational optimisation. Automated processes can identify patterns, detect anomalies, and predict failures, enabling proactive maintenance and resource allocation.

automation in the oil and gas industry

However, there are drawbacks to consider. While machines can be highly efficient and accurate, they lack the human touch and creativity that is often required for complex data science tasks. Machines may struggle to understand contextual nuances or make sophisticated judgments based on incomplete or ambiguous information.

Expanding your talent pool by exploring other industries

It is clear that the oil and gas sector is experiencing a loss of talent to other industries, particularly renewables, as 49% of professionals stated that they would consider moving to this sector if asked so. The most effective attack is counter-attacking, and O&G firms should also explore other sectors, like technology, to find talent that aligns with their business.

oil and gas workers moving to renewables

By seeking out individuals with hands-on experience in cutting-edge technologies such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), digital twins, and the Internet of Things (IoT), hiring managers can bring in fresh perspectives and expertise to the industry.

skills gap in oil and gas another insight

However, it's important to note that professionals from other industries may require some time to understand the specific nuances of the oil and gas sector. They may need to familiarise themselves with industry regulations, safety protocols, and operational practices. To ensure a smooth transition, companies should provide adequate training and support to help these professionals acclimate to the unique challenges and requirements of the oil and gas sector.

Strategic outsourcing can optimise project execution

Outsourcing projects and tasks can be a strategic solution to address the skills gap in the oil and gas industry. By partnering with external companies, companies can tap into a wider pool of specialised expertise and skills to complete projects and tasks that require specific knowledge or experience.

One of the key benefits of outsourcing is the ability to access talent for short-term tasks and projects. This allows oil and gas companies to supplement their existing workforce with experts who possess the necessary skills and experience to fill the skill gap. Whether it's technical expertise in niche areas, project management skills, or specialised knowledge, outsourcing provides a flexible solution to address immediate needs without the long-term commitment of hiring full-time employees.

How Airswift can help you find top oil and gas talent

Partnering with external companies can expedite the completion of projects by leveraging their established processes, resources, and networks. This helps to mitigate the impact of the skills gap by ensuring that critical projects are not delayed or compromised due to a lack of internal expertise.

As we mentioned earlier, though, many approaches could prove to be something of a lottery to the line manager who needs to fill a position on the team as quickly as possible to make sure that a project doesn't go over budget or miss its deadline.

Their team needs to be tight-knit and on the same page to ensure efficiency, harmony and focus on the project are maximised. That can be tough for any manager to achieve, let alone in a sector with as strict requirements around safety and compliance as in the oil and gas industry.

The Airswift team is here to help. As oil and gas experts ourselves, we speak your language and understand your challenges – and this informs our approach to recruitment.

We've worked diligently to develop the best talent networks in the industry, which means we can resolve your skills issues fast with staff that understand your project and can hit the ground running. And, thanks to the market intelligence we've collected and the original research we've commissioned, we're invaluable as a strategic partner, too.

Download the GETI Report


This post was written by: Raphael Santos, Content Marketing Coordinator