In skills shortage, if we fail to prepare, we’re preparing to fail

By Linda Hsieh, Editor & Publisher

The drilling industry has been talking about the Big Crew Change as far back as the early to mid-2000s. And for a few years it seemed like the industry was truly feeling the gravity of the situation and was taking substantial steps to prepare itself for the future by building pipelines of talent. But then the downturn hit in 2014, companies kicked over to survival mode, and the people challenge was – perhaps out of necessity – shifted to the backburner.

Fast-forward a few years, and the industry is readjusting its priorities again and putting the spotlight back on the skills shortage. Over the past year, the Big Crew Change has been finding its way back to the center of industry conferences and discussions, including the recent IADC Drilling Caspian Conference, held 20-21 February in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Speaking on a panel dedicated to this topic, Gulnar Najafova, HR Manager for KCA Deutag, pointed to the 2019 Global Energy Talent Index (GETI), which surveyed 17,000 energy professionals and hiring managers in 162 countries. Key findings from this survey include:

• 40% of survey respondents believe the energy sector is already in the grips of a talent crisis;

• 28% expect a talent crisis to hit within the next five years;

• 92% of professionals would consider relocating to another region for their job; and

• Only 30% of those age 25 and under believe that higher pay effectively attracts talent.

This last finding should no longer be surprising, as it’s been put forth in multiple surveys  about millennials. “Of course they’re interested in high pay, but they’re more interested in career opportunities within the company – that’s what attracts talent,” Ms Najafova said.

It’s a Global Issue

The finding that our industry should really take note of, she said, is the high percentage of people willing to move to new countries in search of better jobs and careers. Consider this in the context of countries around the world that face skills shortages, which include Japan, India, Brazil, Turkey and Mexico, among many others. This emphasizes the global nature of the skills shortage. “There is still a preference for a local workforce, but this is going to be unsustainable if the market grows and the talent pool does not,” said Hannah Peet, Managing Director at Energy Jobline, one of the organizations that conducted the GETI survey.

Employees are not confined to a single industry or a single country, so the industry must take a global view in their recruitment strategy.

In fact, young employees are simply much more mobile than previous generations, which necessitates a further shift in mindset for industry leaders and HR professionals.

Graham Clark, Drilling Manager at Socar AQS and moderator of the panel session at the Baku conference, described it well when he said that young people today don’t associate progression of their career with staying at any one company. Many never intend to stay in one company for more than two to three years.

Yet, organizations can’t not train their employees for fear of losing them a few years down the road. “It’s a massive challenge, but it’s something we’ll have to learn to cope with,” Mr Clark said. “We’ll have to learn to bring talent in and out.”

Non-technical Skills Becoming More Valued

As the industry considers the challenges around the growing skills shortage, it also must be recognized that companies need much more than just technical skills. Although expertise around engineering and automation are essential, organizations also must focus on developing the non-technical skills of their employees, such as leadership and communication.

Creativity, as well, is becoming an increasingly valued asset. Ms Najafova cited a World Economic Forum report comparing the top 10 skills needed in 2015 versus the top 10 skills that will be needed in 2020. Creativity moved from No. 10 in the 2015 list to No. 3 in 2020. “We need forward thinkers,” she said. DC

About the author

Linda Hsieh is a graduate of the journalism program at the University of Texas at Austin, where she also completed the Business Foundations program at the U.T. McCombs School of Business and minored in Asian Studies. She has been writing for Drilling Contractor since 2005.


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