We attended the Subsea Expo 2018 last month and it was exciting to see how, in typical fashion, our great city of Aberdeen is fighting back.
That said, as we pick ourselves up from the oil and gas collapse, fuelled by the ambition and innovation of small businesses along with the M&A activity of the larger corporates, there is a recurring concern amongst business in the North East.Do we still have the skills to support the growth of this new look economy and can we retain them?
The Oil and Gas Technology Centre (OGTC), who are heavily involved in the role out of the Aberdeen city deal, have co-invested £37m to support the development and implementation of new technologies. This money has gone to support over 70 new projects all within the first 12 months of operation.
Corporate activity in the last 12 months has seen $17 billion of North Sea assets acquired. It is anticipated operators will be looking to maximise output on assets which could result in increased economic activity in the sector.
However, we’ve witnessed first-hand how many experienced oil and gas professionals were impacted by the job cuts, many actively seeking roles out-with the sector during the downturn using their transferrable skills to build new careers in other industries, such as renewables.
There’s no denying that the industry has faced significant changes and challenges and Mike Backus (VP Operations of Nexen Petroleum) speaking at the Subsea Expo 2018 praised those who remain in it for rallying around and uniting in the face of such difficulties.
Neil Gordon (Chief Executive of Subsea UK) discussed how we’ve seen a dramatic reduction of people employed within the subsea sector, from 53,000 to 45,000, highlighting the potential near-future problem for the industry, being the availability of the right people with the right skill sets.
So as confidence grows in the market and organisations refocus on recruitment, we need to ask ourselves, how do we attract the specialist skills needed and how do we retain them within the Oil and Gas Industry?
As remuneration in Aberdeen has dropped, the salary gap in Scotland has lessened and we often see like for like salaries when recruiting for our central belt counterparts. This being the case, it is important companies invest in their employees.
Our experience shows that focusing on supplementary benefits that engage employees establishes loyalty with the business. Promoting the values and vision of the business and implementing these has proven successful in retaining staff.
As many have been forced to leave the industry and adapt their skills to suit their new sector, how can the oil and gas industry ensure that the many specialist skills required for success in this sector remain in place?
We shouldn’t be naïve in thinking that training can be undertaken within a short period of time to replace years of specialist experience lost. However, we would urge employers to look beyond the short term cost in retraining existing staff, who have already bought into the values and vision of the business and look towards the long term benefit they will provide.
Promote STEM Subjects
While there is concern about attracting the right skill set at present, the pipeline of talent, particularly in engineering, isn’t as strong as it could be. So again, focusing on the longer term growth of the Aberdeen economy and sustainability of business in this area, it is important for industry to support education and promote the virtues of a career in this area.
Creating stronger ties with schools and FE establishments, crafting the skills that will serve our economy for the next generation will only strengthen the resurgence of the North East.
So whilst advocating staff retention and retraining of existing employees, inevitably there will need to be significant recruitment to re-establish our economy here in the North East.