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How developing future leaders can help plug the oil and gas skills gap

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

BP has recently launched the latest recruitment campaign for the Future Leaders Programme (FLP), a development initiative which fast-tracks early career recruits to be the business leaders of the future. Victoria Bourne, Head of Resourcing, Refining & Marketing at BP discusses how developing future leaders is important for the industry and is providing BP with a diverse pool of talent in its operations.

The demand for talent

The demand for talent, from graduates through to experienced industry professionals, has rocketed over the past 10 years, following a wave of retirements and the ever increasing global demand for energy. The possibility of not having the right staff in place has led to increased competition for the best talent in the industry.

This well documented problem has been highlighted by various studies. The Oil & Gas HR Benchmark Survey, produced by Schlumberger Business Consulting (SBC), suggests that the oil and gas industry will have to generate 60% more petrotechnical leaders between 2013 and 2017 than it has over the past four years.1

It’s also about attracting the right sort of people. The intricacies and breadth of the oil and gas industry requires a unique balance of talent from a range of academic backgrounds and jobs, be it chemists, engineers or lawyers.

The industry challenge

The industry has had a history of hiring and up-skilling the workforce based on the current oil price. Traditionally, when oil prices have fallen, workers have been made redundant, and when oil prices spike, the industry battles to acquire as many skilled people as possible.

The industry continues to have a strong reputation when it comes to graduate recruitment, as oil and energy employers consistently sit in the top employer rankings. However, it is not just about fuelling the fire from the bottom, but ensuring we have the right individuals in place to lead the business and its operations tomorrow. This is the crux of the FLP, as candidates, typically with some business experience, join the programme to be fast-tracked into roles which would typically take a graduate eight years to reach. With direct support of senior management, we believe these individuals can grow into the next generation of leaders within BP and help drive innovation and efficiency within the wider industry.

The downstream business touches so much of what we rely on for everyday activity which is why it is imperative we have the very best individuals helping to drive it forward. Fuels for transportation; energy supplies for light and heat; lubricants to operate cars, ships and planes; petrochemicals for paints, textiles and food packaging – they all improve our quality of life, and these are just a few examples. Aside from the more technical disciplines, there are also a multitude of other roles from the management of refineries to the marketing of petrol and convenience foods that require experienced professionals from different backgrounds.

The SBC research highlights that the industry could experience an outflow of more than 22,000 senior key petrotechnical professionals by 2015. This equates to a loss of more than 5,500 experienced petrotechnical professionals, leaving a potentially worrying gap towards the more experienced level.

Tackling the shortage at the right level

Filling graduate roles will help compensate the expected losses in total; it does not address the important gap in experienced hires which, as mentioned earlier, is just as crucial for the growth of the industry.

Companies are taking a highly proactive approach to managing their talent pipelines. We are seeing the development of comprehensive knowledge transfer programmes, shifting knowledge from senior employees to the next generation and leveraging organisational expertise and best practices across the business. We are also seeing fast-track leadership programmes becoming critical, as experienced workers move into leadership and mentoring roles, training less-experienced employees in a shorter time frame than with normal hires.

Attracting, retaining and developing the brightest and best talent is one of BP's key corporate objectives and we have implemented various strategies and programmes to achieve this goal. It is not just about securing an eclectic mix of talent, but also maintaining and developing them into the next set of leaders and executives.

Plugging the gap

BP’s Future Leaders Programme (FLP) aims to fast-track early career recruits to be the business leaders of the future and this year BP aims to attract a maximum of 30 highest calibre individuals.

Candidates from all over the world can apply for the sought-after places on the programme. The truly global programme is helping to attract the very best individuals to the organisation, whilst also increasing the diverse pool of talent working within the business. 2013’s intake saw a roughly 60/40 male to female split and it is expected that this year’s intake will be closer to 50/50.

This programme is a prime example of BP actively addressing the potential ‘skills gap’ and how it is gearing for the future growth of the company and the industry as a whole. By acquiring and developing the best talent on each rung of the ladder, it will enable us to make sure we have the industries finest talent on board to lay the foundations and take strides towards the future.


Written by Victoria Bourne, Head of Resourcing, Refining & Marketing at BP.

Edited by Katie Woodward

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