By: Nicholas Newman
Not having the right people can cause the industry delays and cost millions in lost income. A typical rig, as leased from Transocean Ltd, the world’s largest owner of offshore rigs, can cost operators such as BP at least $3-5 million a week. “The current shortage is a worldwide phenomenon,” says Hugh Williams CEO of the International Marine Contractors Association. This is not helped in Europe by the existence of equally well remunerated employment in rival sectors such as finance and the large number of mega sized civil engineering infrastructure projects like Europe’s ‘London’s Crossrail’ , which he adds “ have bled the skills base out at sea.”
Reasons for such shortages are numerous. A primary reason facing the industry is demographics, the workforce is aging rapidly, so that the industry is facing every year a bigger recruitment challenges. However, matters are not helped by the very nature of the industry is constantly evolving, so that the labour force is constantly needing to be up skilled. In addition, the challenges to overcoming the skills gap by such obstacles including insufficient incentives for recruits, investment, deficient training facilities and the boom and bust nature of the industry. Nor does it help that in the case of the North Sea says Professor Stow “that training has not caught up with the new realities.” In the UK, education at all levels is still focussed on the juvenile stages of the development of North Sea oil and gas fields and not the mature stage, which this oil-producing province has entered into.
However, recruiting new candidates from outside the industry is problematic, when there are inbuilt cultural and social biases by potential candidates, policy makers and education sector against working in this sector. Nor does it help that there appears to be an inbuilt prejudice by female members of the workforce against working in this sector.
Such inbuilt social and cultural obstacles include:
- Finding new hires able to integrate into a team and work well in the company environment.
- Lack of information on national/global selection criteria and process Information limited to a privileged group, personal networks, ‘old boys networks’
- Lack of local male and female role models
- Gender bias in national criteria, procedures and recruitment campaigns
- Lack of specific policies and outreach programmes that target female recruits
- Focus of schools, universities and policy makers in academic achievement at the expense of more practical skills.
- Failure to market job opportunities in media formats and locations accessible to potential recruits.
- Problems of bias within the industry that prevents low skilled staff from moving up the career ladder.
It is becoming clear that to the industries leaders that this situation cannot continue, since maintaining the status quo is a threat to the industries future. As a result, we are beginning to see changes in response to these shortages. Worldwide BP is investing $500 million in training and development in staff, whilst in Brazil for instance, NES GLOBAL Talent is working with academia to encourage the education of suitably trained workforces to work in its booming offshore oil sector. However, in the UK, Professor Stow says” government at UK, regional and local level are working with industry, universities, technical colleges and private training organisations in taking a more integrated approach to encourage and educate new recruits. In addition, policies are being implemented to improve training provision on campus, via distance learning and on the job.
How well such policies are implemented remains to be seen.