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Editorial comment

When contacting companies to provide articles for Oilfield Technology, I find that some topics are far easier to commission for than others. While it can be tricky for some companies to find the time (and engineers) to write the more technically-focused articles, I’ve noticed over the past year that many organisations are more than keen to talk about issues surrounding recruitment in the industry and the challenges that recruiting and training the right workforce is currently presenting in the oil and gas sector.

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Our next specific feature on the topic of recruitment will be in the March 2013 issue, but the topic will undoubtedly be touched upon in our regional reports on China and Australia in the January and February issues respectively. Australia in particular has long been a hot topic in relation to skills and workforce challenges.

I recently attended the Oil Council’s World Assembly, which was held in London. The event attracted more than 1000 senior industry decision makers. During the first day’s talks there was a strong focus on issues surrounding HR and many of the speakers chose to reiterate the industry-wide importance of channelling resources into finding, recruiting, training and retaining an effective workforce both today and tomorrow. Challenges that are faced in this regard centre around the perception that the oil and gas industry is not a ‘high tech’ industry in the way that maybe the IT industry is viewed. Our industry is still perceived to be environmentally unsound and geopolitically provocative.

Many young people are looking to work in an organisation in which they can progress quickly, and traditionally the oil and gas industry has in place a rigid hierarchy in which, for example, a new recruit must serve a set amount of years in one position before he or she is eligible to progress further. Many of the senior executives agreed that the industry as a whole needs to become more flexible in its career structures, in order to cater to what the modern young workforce requires.

It was noted that much of the sense of personal reward in working a long career in the oil and gas sector comes from being part of a long term project and seeing it through from conception to completion. The industry is not necessarily a ‘short term gain’ type of workplace. So a career in oil and gas needs to be promoted as an opportunity in which individuals could, and should, aim to devote years in learning skills and developing valuable experience. A lifetime of experience enables an employee to make the best judgements on project risks.

So where are companies looking for their new recruits? Beyond universities, developing countries possess a wealth of raw talent eager to learn the skills needed to develop their own country’s resources. It seems the key to meeting the needs of tomorrow’s global energy demand is having the workforce in place to achieve this aim both today and in the future.