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Minimising the skills gap

Published by , Senior Editor
Hydrocarbon Engineering,

‘The Great Crew Change’ is a well-known term that describes the ageing workforce in the oil and gas industry. Data shows that most industry employees are either over 55 or under 35 years of age. These statistics reveal that the ‘older crew’ comprises nearly 50% of the industry’s personnel and most are retiring within the next five to seven years. Once retired, these seasoned workers will take a wealth of knowledge and experience with them, creating a significant skills gap within the oil and gas workforce.

However, ‘The Great Crew Change’s’ skills shortages isn’t anything new to the industry. Skills shortages commenced in the US in the 1980s primarily because of the recession that began in July 1981. The recession was a result of several factors including the 1973 and 1979 oil crises, which led to an increase of unemployment and inflation rates. While oil prices plummeted and energy companies were forced to put projects on hold, skilled workers chose alternative industries such as construction, mining and aerospace for better stability.

Current outlook

A survey carried out in 2019 by NES Global Talent and Oil and Gas Job Search showed that there is still wide concern about the skills gap, and in fact, nine out of 10 employers stated that they believe it is impacting current productivity. With 75% saying they also need to increase staffing levels over the next year.

Employers take steps to bridge the skills gap

In an effort to bridge the skills gap, the survey showed that over 61% of employers are implementing new training and development programs, up from just over half of employers investing in this way in 2017. 28% of employers are also making changes to their retention and recruitment practices, more than double the 13% who did two years prior. Companies are also beginning to implement a wide variety of other tactics such as partnering with further education colleges and creating apprenticeship opportunities to encourage the development of a younger workforce, thus aiding in bridging the skills gap between the ‘older and younger crews.’ Additional tactics include targeting outside industries and female workers and enticing retirees to come back to the workforce with competitive compensation and more flexible work schedules.

Implementing positive change

There are a multitude of ways that employers can assist in helping to close the skills gap and one of the best, and simplest, ways to start is by asking current employees what solutions might be best for them and their team members. Employers can then look to offer tailored training courses and mentorships which can creates a more positive work environment and strengthen employees’ competency levels.

It will undoubtedly take a combination of such initiatives to ensure that the oil and gas industry continues to thrive and can tackle the challenges ahead.

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