Confidence Returning to Oil and Gas Recruitment as Oil Price Stabilises
Thanks, however, to structural issues that have arisen since (and in many cases due to) the slump in prices, companies may well find it much harder to recruit in the next upswing.
This is the conclusion of two recent surveys undertaken by Petroplan, one amongst employers and one amongst candidates and potential candidates.
Despite investor caution, and concerns around debt levels and shale depletion rates, the U.S. is seen to be at the front of the recovery queue, closely followed by the Middle East. Activity is expected to pick up on onshore rigs first, followed by shallow water projects.
Contract staff are likely to be in the vanguard of any recovery, with over two-thirds of respondents to our Energy Talent Explorer Review expecting greater use of contractors, bringing with them the flexibility and cost control which are critical in the current business environment. The use of Western expat contractors – particularly prevalent in the Middle East - looks set to decline however as lower-cost local talent upskills and nationalisation targets take effect.
Of all the global major oil and gas hubs we surveyed, respondents in the Middle East were most concerned about skills shortages, with three quarters of respondents in the region expecting this to be a serious challenge; there are a number of factors at play here.
Almost a third (31per cent) of respondents to our annual Talent Insight Index said they are likely to leave the sector and seek employment elsewhere, with parallel sectors such as renewables, construction and heavy industry the most popular destinations. Many, of course, have already taken this route. There is also the demographic challenge the industry was already facing, which has been exacerbated by the oil price downturn since mid-2014, with experienced middle managers laid off and millennials put off entering the industry. While two thirds of those we spoke to recognised the challenge as a major obstacle to growth, there was a feeling that multi-skilling and up-skilling the existing workforce will help to address it.
"Respondents in the Middle East were most concerned about skills shortages, with three quarters of respondents in the region expecting this to be a serious challenge"
This echoes something we consistently hear from candidates: that training provision is a particularly important factor for candidates, especially those younger candidates starting out or in the early phase of their careers. Oil and gas companies should not let experience and knowledge walk out the door. Instead, redeploying those approaching retirement to train and mentor others is a valuable resource that should not be overlooked. Inhouse programmes for industry entrants, such as internships and apprenticeships, can also play a key role.
Finally, as mentioned above, this concern over skills is also a reflection of nationalisation / local employment targets beginning to bite (and a realisation within companies that they can no longer rely on as many Western expatriate contractors).
There is substantial local talent in many Middle East markets which will add significant value to client projects. Working with a recruitment partner who recognises this and has access to qualified local candidates is important, since this will ensure the local workforce is being invested in and ultimately - when a project finishes - the local population is more equipped than it was previously.
Where there remains a need for expats, companies will be looking to outsource employment liability as far as possible, by using recruiters who can mobilise contractors and assist with visas, work permits and other paperwork.
So where are the skills shortages? Experienced technical talent, as well as those with a combination of technical and financial skills, look set to be most in demand in any recovery. Mechanical and chemical engineers and project managers were among the shortage roles most often mentioned for the Middle East.
With their extensive networks of potential candidates, finding, vetting and securing the best candidates to fill these niches is where those specialist recruiters committed to the region can add value and free up internal HR resource.
This article first appeared in the May issue of ADIPEC News.
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