Ahead of speaking at the 10th annual Young Professionals in Oil and Gas (YPOG) dinner on November 27, Archie Kennedy, UK Managing Director and Vice President, Europe, for Nexen outlines how the oil and gas industry can address the widening skills gap it currently faces.
Upstream oil and gas in the 21st century is a truly international industry, offering career opportunities for people with the right skills on virtually every continent. Yet the average age of oil and gas workers – at 56 – is astonishingly high relative to almost all other industries on the planet.
Not only is there a shortage of graduates in this area contributing to the increasing skills gap, but we also face the reality that nearly half the industry workforce is now over 45. And the shortage is most severe where the industry can least afford it to be – highly skilled, technical roles out in the field, crucial to any project. Of the total pool of experienced engineers within the industry, over half will be eligible for retirement in the next five to ten years; a sobering statistic.
This shortage – predominantly of mid-tier employees in the 35-50 age range, with around a decade’s worth of experience – is in part the price the industry is paying for the shutdown of recruitment and training programmes during the oil price slump in the 80s. However, without transferring this knowledge and bolstering the mid-career talent pool, a huge amount of experience will be lost in the industry in the next five to ten years.
It is estimated that the global oil and gas industry will need over 120,000 new workers to plug the gap over the next decade. Despite a huge focus from the industry in this area the UK is still failing to make a large enough impact to address the widening skills gap. This is worrying when you consider that the UK’s future competitiveness relies on its continued ability to produce the best talent.
Nexen’s successful growth into a global upstream oil and gas producer has been achieved by consistently finding and developing significant assets that deliver long-term value. Exactly the same can be said of our single greatest asset – the 3,200-strong Nexen team around the globe who are responsible for this success. The industry as a whole must take positive action now to ensure we are continuously encouraging new talent into the industry.
Firstly, it’s important that we pull together to develop talent and make recommendations on how we can sustain our future growth potential.
We must address the gender imbalance within the industry by encouraging more women into engineering. In China diversity has rapidly increased over the last five years, and now more than a third of engineers are female.
Children are making career choices that stick at an earlier age, we must therefore positively promote careers in engineering to them. Companies can do this by engaging with programmes such as OPITO’s oil and gas work experience week, a week long programme designed to give children a better understanding of the career opportunities which exist within the oil and gas industry.
Secondly, there is much that individual companies can do. The UK is currently a key area of growth for Nexen. We recently brought on stream our Golden Eagle asset, one of the largest North Sea discoveries in the last decade, and we continue to actively explore in the area.
As part of this activity we look forward to welcoming a number of recruits joining us through our three-year graduate programme. These recently graduated young professionals will work on high-profile projects and learn from some of the best and brightest in the industry.
Nexen has also launched a Talent Exchange Programme, which will give employees selected by their leaders the opportunity to relocate to Beijing, Canada or the UK for either short-term or longer-term work assignments.
Creating stronger links between industry and academia, at all levels, will support not only growth but innovation within the energy industry. If each company takes responsibility and plays its part in training its own talent, we can truly safeguard the future of our industry.
UK Managing Director and Vice President, Europe, Nexen