The Great Crew Change: Bridging the skills gap in engineering

March 7, 2019

Source: Zbynek Burival/Unsplash

The Great Crew Change - learning the lessons of previous downturns

Ever heard of The Great Crew Change? It’s a very real worry for energy companies to address in the oil and gas industry, and one that many are struggling to overcome.

The Great Crew Change refers to the oncoming waves of older workers in the field reaching retirement age – a time when the next generation is expected to be there, ready and able to step into their shoes and start their own long-lasting careers in the industry.

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

There’s hope for the future, though, according to the 2019 Global Energy Talent Index (GETI) Report. It shows that 81% of people aged under 25 would consider entering the oil and gas sector if they were starting their career now. Though a positive sign, The Great Crew Change is happening here and now, and is a problem that needs to be resolved ASAP.

A skills shortage in the energy industry isn’t all that recent, either, and actually began in the 80s due in large part to the economic crash of the time. Oil prices hit lows of $20 a barrel and stayed that way for over a decade, with numerous energy companies closing. Skilled engineers, partly because of those conditions, chose the aerospace and automotive sectors over fields such as oil and gas because of a perception of greater career stability.

How energy companies can find the next generation of talent

It’s a real problem for companies in the energy sector. Older workers are retiring en masse, and in recent years, many jobs were shed due to the volatility of oil prices.

Companies in the oil and gas industry, therefore, must work incredibly hard to attract the very best in young talent and convince them their future lies with them instead of a competitor.

So how can companies stop the skills gap from growing any wider when the Great Crew Change hits? And how long do they realistically have to prepare for the upheaval that will follow?

According to GETI, almost half (42%) of European energy companies feel that the crisis is already here. Some 39% of North American respondents agree, which shows how companies in the oil and gas industry worldwide are feeling the heat when it comes to recruiting young talent and are aware of the consequences that may occur if they fall short.

Across Europe and North America, 58% believe the largest hit to their business from failing to plug the talent gap will be seen in decreased efficiency. 52% believe that costs will increase by failing to address the issue, while 51% say they’ll see a reduction in overall productivity.

However, GETI data also shows how the oil and gas industry is working hard to educate young engineers that their future may lie in the sector. In North America, 54% of respondents say they are focusing on showing, in clear ways, the career opportunities and progression that the industry can offer, while 46% are offering better training to young talent and 44% are drawing attention to the wages and other benefits they can offer.

That’s also true in Europe. 50% of companies are focusing on better training while 52% are highlighting the benefits they offer in terms of career progression, and 51% on remuneration.

Furthermore, what’s amazing to see from GETI data is that companies on both continents believe they already have personnel in-house who could be trained to bridge the skills gap. 61% of European operators are looking to retrain employees to build on their current skills, as are 67% of North Americans – 19% of whom would look overseas for talent compared against 32% of European companies.

So what skills are they specifically looking for? The biggest gap in Europe relates to ‘problem-solving’, with 30% looking specifically for young workers able to think on their feet. 25% are also searching for the next generation who can demonstrate ‘leadership’ skills. It’s a similar pattern in North America, where 29% are looking for leaders, with problem-solving skills coming close behind at 28%.

Finding that talent though is an awful lot of work to expect from line and senior management who are already overseeing complex projects and need the absolute best talent to fill key positions quickly, who will fit in with the team ethic and get up to speed with the wider project as soon as possible.

Working with a recruitment specialist in the oil and gas industry can not only make this process more seamless, but also help companies prepare for the Great Crew Change.

The Airswift Team has a global presence and 40 years of experience in recruiting energy specialists. They also are skilled at creating effective long-term talent attraction strategies to maintain a steady flow of top engineering talent for each and every project they undertake.

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

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


This post was written by: Callum Donaldson, Sales Manager at Airswift