Attract and retain STEM talent for the energy industry

November 19, 2021

Source: Syda Productions/Shutterstock

The energy sector contains some of the most skilled individuals and teams in the world. It is a hive for talent and the extremely ambitious, with career progression being the leading reason why professionals choose the sector.

However, building an energy-strong talent pipeline remains difficult and the energy sector still requires a steady flow of STEM-educated talent.

The problem is that there isn’t enough of it to go around. The latent gap is still growing and energy companies are forced into competition with other sectors for the scarce STEM talent available.

Another wrench in the system is that talent attraction and retention difficulties are at an all-time high

Companies around the world are facing up to exhausted and disenchanted employees who are calling it quits as the pandemic recedes.

In the US, 11.5 million people left their jobs in Spring 2021, resulting in a record-breaking 10.9 million open jobs at the end of July according to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics.

This phenomenon has caught up with the rest of the world. Microsoft reported that 40% of the global workforce are planning to leave their jobs by year-end 2021 and findings from Employment Hero revealed that 61% of workers surveyed plan to search for new opportunities in the next 12 months.

Moving forward, it will be the most forward-thinking companies that will be able to help close the skills gap in the energy sector and turn crisis into opportunity.

We look at some of the strategies that can be applied to help attract and retain STEM talent for the energy industry.

Inspire talent at an early age

STEM  learning

So how can the industry grow its pool of STEM talent? For starters, engagement needs to happen early.

By the time students are considering their higher level qualifications, some will have decided it’s not the path for them. It's essential that the energy industry remains an option at this point.

Tapping into this desire to inspire the next generation, the sector is already delivering events and activities. For example, Worley, a global provider of professional services in the energy, chemical, and resources sector, devised a creative, new initiative to spark interest from school-age children.

stem ambassadorsSource:

Flipping the concept of parents' evening on its head, children were invited to come to Worley’s offices to get better insight into what their parents get up to at work. This included a virtual reality experience of offshore assets and understanding the importance of PPE.

In the US, the Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce (GHWCC) launched Women in the Fastlane of STEAM - an initiative designed to connect young women with female role models in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) positions. The program was aimed at improving grades and graduation rates and encouraging a career in STEAM amongst its attendees.

Initiatives like this can transcend past business units and nurture deep-rooted interests in STEM and energy and is a step towards closing the gender gap of women in STEM and in energy.

But more can be done

Partnering with schools and higher education institutions can be another effective channel for companies to inspire the next generation of talent. Schools play a significant role in shaping the future career directions of pupils, so are a key actor for inspiring and getting them exciting them about STEM subjects.

Cultivate continuous excitement towards STEM learning

Cultivate continuous excitement in STEM
Source: Shutterstock/Monkey Business Images

Once teenagers are inspired to work in the sector, we need to build and maintain their excitement.

In the UK, STEM Ambassadors help to capture their initial enthusiasm and nurture this into actively looking for a role within the sector. Attending career fairs and highlighting the range of opportunities is key for companies trying to motivate this talent.

Companies have the opportunity to demonstrate how the industry is more than hard hats and hi-vis, and showcase the variety of roles from data analysts to project managers and compliance officers.

This interest may lead current students to consider STEM subjects as they continue their education. Again, there is a role for schools in ensuring pupils are supported to study STEM subjects.

Attract and retain

Students will often search for graduate schemes as their university course comes towards an end. And the energy sector isn’t the only competition. There are skill shortages in other industries too, such as tech and pharma.

As ADNOC’s recent survey reports, STEM-focused individuals view companies with an innovative approach to technology as more attractive. Energy, therefore, needs to stand out in this crowded field by showcasing its technology credentials in any graduate scheme it offers.

These schemes are one route for new recruits, but apprenticeships are also growing in importance

For example, Shell Energy Retail has put together an innovative apprenticeship programme giving apprentices hands-on experience in cyber security and network engineering, and a degree-level qualification.

It is not just attracting the talent that can prove difficult, but the average tenure of a young professional in energy is just over two years. This isn’t a new problem with previous generations also seeing young workers carrying out a short tenure. Companies are therefore having to be more creative than ever in how they’re securing and developing their talent.

Retention is essential to HR strategy

Gen Z and Millennials will soon make up the majority of the energy workforce. Not only are they a generation keen on roles that offer variety and the opportunity to be challenged and progress, they also want meaningful jobs that give them purpose.

These tenets need to be front and centre in recruitment efforts by energy businesses. And it needs to continue past attraction and form a key part of the retention strategy.

Simple solutions can be put in place to ensure the voices of new recruits are heard. Whether it’s a tech-based solution or access to senior team members, listening to employees is essential.

Other notable factors that can also enhance the employee experience include flexible working conditions, shared values, a workplace that prioritises employee wellbeing, and a corporate culture that champions diversity and inclusion.

Relatively minor tweaks to company culture and outlook can make a big difference to staff retention. The Googles and Amazons of the world are changing expectations of employees and companies must put their people at the heart of their strategy.

For existing energy employees, STEM upskilling is necessary for moving forward

Retrain and upskill


Within oil & gas, for example, the sector is facing increasing pressure to shed its old-school reputation and reinvent itself to stay relevant amidst the energy transition.

Beyond this, the shift towards digitalisation will also need an engaged and tech-savvy workforce. This will see the energy industry competing for a younger generation of STEM talent with other industries that are regarded as more exciting and technologically advanced.

According to Accenture, retraining and reskilling existing employees for energy industry jobs may be the answer. Not only will it result in six times more cost savings than hiring new employees, it will also add a wealth of experience back into the sector and help reduce the skills shortage.

In PWC's Global CEO Survey, 45% of Energy, Utilities & Resources CEOs note that upskilling is the preferred solution to the skills shortage and placed an emphasis on developing skills in data science and analytics. 

The retraining of existing employees was also stated by 57% of nuclear, renewables, oil and gas, power, and petrochemical GETI 2019 respondents as the best way for companies to tackle the skills issue.

According to the World Economic Forum Future of Jobs report, 2020 saw the highest number of energy employees requiring more than one year of reskilling efforts. For these professionals, this could increase the chance of transferring between industries, as certain skillsets are needed across all sectors.

Upskilling challenges

What’s at stake for companies if a skills shortage occurs?

Over half of respondents said that decreased efficiency would be the biggest risk, followed by increased operating costs. So, when investing in training and upskilling, where should the focus lie? To figure this out, there needs to be an understanding of the current skills that are needed.

Say thought leaders from RMIT's global alumni committee,STEM knowledge in engineering and computer sciences plays a massive role in tackling the technological challenges faced by the green energy industry. This is especially important as we shift towards renewables integration and reducing the carbon intensity within the energy market.

Ally Energy, also cites STEM knowledge as one of the six in-demand skills within the energy sector alongside social awareness, project management, and cross-functionality. 

Employee training and development in the energy industry can be used to improve retention

13-RetainThere are plenty of training opportunities available that can help individuals learn additional skills.

The DOB-Academy's unique training course covers the technical aspects for the development of an offshore wind farm. It prepares those wanting to re-train or re-skill to work in the sector. There are also many companies that offer extensive technical training facilities as options for candidates to get the re-training and up-skilling they need.

 Drilling Systems have also technically advanced simulators that provide extensive assessment and training across three key disciplines within rig operations; drilling, well control and lifting. Organisations that offer this type of internal training or even mentorship programmes to employees are more likely to retain staff as it supports employee growth and progression.

In Canada, worker-led nonprofit organisation Iron and Earth's Prosperous Transitions campaign is a national upskilling initiative that upskills fossil fuel and industry workers for jobs in a net-zero economy.

For energy employees, retraining or upskilling could provide an enormous opportunity to progress their careers. Energy companies must recognise this as a step towards investing in their employees and use it as part of their retention strategy. 

93% of respondents in PWC's CEO survey recorded increased acquisition and retention. After all, upskilling creates a culture of upwards mobility, this not only instills a sense of loyalty towards the company but can promote engagement and productivity in their roles. 

Energy companies that support continuous learning will not only encourage innovation but will also prepare their employees to be adaptable to change and build a more resilient workforce.

Download our talent retention white paper

To get more information on the importance of employee training in the energy industry and its role in shaping employee retention, download our white paper, Re-shaping Talent Retention for the Energy Industry in a Post-COVID World.

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This post was written by: Leanna Seah, Content Marketing Coordinator