The ‘big crew change’

Actions Tried to Get, Keep Talent

Manpower. It’s been a concern for two decades and remains a challenge that gets more critical with no magic bullet in sight.

But a panel of executive-level experts noted in a special session at the recent AAPG International Convention and Exhibition in Cape Town there are strategies being undertaken – and still to be launched – that can have an impact.

A Shortage of Experienced Professionals
A Shortage of Experienced Professionals

The panel, co-chaired by Pete Stark, IHS vice president of industry relations, and Michael Naylor, vice president technical, global exploration, Shell, included:

  • Mario Carminatti, Petrobras executive manager for exploration.
  • Christian J. Heine, Saudi Aramco senior geological consultant.
  • Rod Nelson, Schlumberger vice president of innovations and collaboration.
  • Jatinda Peters, manager of administration and HR for the India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corp.
  • Scott Tinker, AAPG president.

The panel agreed with Nelson that the industry experienced a hiring surge in the late 1970s and early ’80s, followed by an extended period of decline resulting in the peak evident in this age distribution.

A recent influx of new talent has not made up for decades of depressed hiring activity. As a result, over half of today’s work force is eligible for retirement within the next 10 years – an anticipated event often referred to as “the big crew change.”

The work force must be replenished, but this challenge is exacerbated by an overall shortage of science and engineering graduates – particularly women and minorities.

But that’s not necessarily the only difficulty.

Challenges and Strategies

Peters noted the irony of populous regions such as India still facing a shortage of manpower.

“Employability is the issue,” Peters said, also noting skills are needed in addition to technical expertise, including good communication skills and cultural, social and religious sensitivities and adaptability.

She also noted the “huge mismatch” between the skill set needs of industry and output of the universities.

Also, national oil companies are putting a premium – and in many cases, requiring – for only nationals to populate salaried positions.

Regional Imbalance of Geoscience Graduates
Regional Imbalance of Geoscience Graduates

Additional challenges include the industry’s image and competition from other industries.

Tinker noted that global demographics are evolving with the realties including a younger population in developing countries, differing expectations of the new generation and particular needs for females to be attracted to – and retained by – the industry.

He noted that complex global issues pose technical and social challenges, and a volatile price environment requires an integrated, cooperative approach by industry, government and academe.

Tinker also noted that science, policy and commercialization are critical partners for the future, and that each sector has different time scales for decision-making and are motivated for different opportunities.

“We must bridge across the cycles in order to create a stable environment that attracts and retains the best talent in the world,” Tinker said.

Presenters shared strategies that included:

  • Higher levels of engagement of our industry with schools.
  • Providing materials/programs to enhance curricula.
  • More scholarships.
  • Flexible approaches for work-life balances, including work-at-home opportunities.
  • Sabbaticals.
  • Better defined career ladders.
  • Various mentoring programs, including tapping the talents of qualified retirees.
  • Structured professional and personal development programs.

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