The shortage of workers for the oil and gas industry is worldwide, and some companies and regions are putting a higher priority on addressing the issue, a recent survey revealed.
New gas plays and a resurgence of activity in some areas have helped boost the number of available jobs in the oil and gas sector; however, concern about needed skills and a shortage of certain disciplines remain worldwide, according to the results of a survey released recently.
The Global Oil & Gas Workforce Survey, conducted by Oilcareers.com and Air Energi, showed the majority of those surveyed said the demand within their organizations was the highest for engineers. That occupation was followed by a need for project managers and drilling specialists. Worldwide, disciplines with shortages varied, depending on the type of development under way in each region.
“While shale gas is developing rapidly in the United States, it is also gaining significant momentum in Argentina,” Mark Guest, managing director of OilCareers.com, said in a prepared statement. “This combined with Brazil’s expected jump in offshore activity will help usher in an increase of jobs in those areas.”
The skills shortage coupled with strong oil prices is steering employee packages upward, Guest wrote in the study However, challenges remain with employers’ training programs. The survey revealed that 28.6% can’t offer the full section of training; 28.4% lack funding; 24.8% lack skilled trainers; and 18.2% can’t get quality candidates for their training programs.
Some operators are not sitting back hoping the labor problem will fix itself, Ian Langley, group executive chairman for Air Energi, pointed out in the study. “Savvy operators are choosing not to let the tail wag the dog, taking a global approach to their hiring practices, and where possible, proactively recruiting or reassigning talent as it becomes available,” he wrote. “We have also heard from several clients that the need to protect and enhance the young stream of professionals entering the industry has taken a much higher priority.”
Those methods include providing internships and other ways to help better facilitate the transition into oil and gas careers.
The global survey, which invited more than 170,000 oil and gas professionals to participate from more than 50 countries, included a snapshot of the workforce scene by region.
Africa: A surge in offshore activity on the continent’s west side is spurring the need for subsea specialist engineers, which are already in high demand worldwide. So companies have turned to on-the-job training to fulfill needs. Their response comes as some foreign personnel leave for other areas – such as the Asia-Pacific region – to work on similar projects, according to the survey. Angola regulations push for local hires, making foreign operators prove they have tried to hire locally before international recruits are permitted. The country also offers apprenticeship programs and other jobsite training to help empower the local workforce.
Americas: Upstream investment, fueled by healthy shale plays, continue to drive E&P activity, particularly in North America. Here, survey results showed rates remain competitive and that has drawn talent to the region. Although the area is not immune to skill shortages in its workforce, it is not as evident as in other parts of the world. The survey specifically noted Houston, calling it the “epicenter of talent for the oil and gas industry.” In South America, political and technical issues were listed as barriers to development. In Argentina, for example, demands for as much as a 20% pay increase were made by the labor force; while, in Brazil, local content regulations were partly being blamed on difficulty finding offshore personnel. In the Americas, shortage areas include drilling and completion personnel as well as geologists and geophysicists.
Asia-Pacific: In this region, where investments are about 40% higher than in the North Sea, the continuing demand is strong for engineering and technical expertise needed for the refinery, chemical and power processing areas along with support for projects in Australia, the report stated. Coupled with a boost in production, the region saw the biggest jump in salaries into 2011. Here, there is an increasing demand for naval architects, subsea engineers, construction advisors, project controls specialists, safety engineers, and process engineers. The good news for this region is that a large number of engineering graduates are joining the workforce.
Australia: As the list of multi-billion projects grows here, so do the project cost overruns and the need for more workers. The report stated Australia could be short nearly 150,000 people to develop its gas-related plays. “Companies are taking different approaches to the hiring dilemma, some relying primarily on short-term contract personnel and others choosing to source and hire permanent local staff,” the survey said. Others are targeting the US for potential recruits. Here, like in other areas across the world, engineering, construction quality, project management, and safety disciplines are in highest demand.
FSU-Caspian: Considered the next big pre-salt contender by some, the Caspian Sea’s allocation of resources between Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan have yet to be determined. Sovereignty and development rights aside, the region’s Kazakhstan is estimated to need about 100,000 foreign specialists for one-year contract opportunities for the Kashagan and Karachaganak oil fields, according to the survey. A struggle for Russia will be keeping its homegrown talent in the country. Despite its large annual number of energy graduates, demand will be high in the safety, process, and planning disciplines for Russia.
Europe: With active North Sea basins, the survey said the labor shortfall in Europe is “doubly complicated due to the age of several projects: [while] much of the world’s offshore activities are in start-up phrases, in the North Sea they are mature and/or in need of decommissioning, placing a premium on project managers, structural and process engineers, planning, and other site personnel.” The search also is tough for UK design firms looking for project management, geologists, geosciences, and subsea professionals. To help fulfill the need, the industry has crafted initiatives targeting junior university students, hoping they opt for oil and gas careers.
Middle East: Although this region holds half of the world’s gas reserves and about a third of global oil production, the survey said, it has areas plagued by war and economic woes along with infrastructure and educational shortcomings. But companies still invest here, considering the region’s low start-up and operational costs. Tens of thousands of job opportunities, including work on Iraq’s planned pipeline network overhaul, are anticipated for Iraq. A demand also exists in Qatar with Shell’s gas-to-liquids bringing the need for FEED-related workers. Known for offering long-term contracts to expat personnel, Qatar is showing preference for permanent staff over contractors. Here, rates remain competitive compared to the rest of the region and the world, according to the survey.
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