Talent gap seen in oil and gas industry workforce

The oil and gas industry is facing a talent gap just as a large number of older and more experienced employees is nearing retirement, a troubling trend that is especially acute in the United States and Canada, demographics experts said Tuesday.

Officials said at an IHS CERAWeek session that companies in the industry need to do a better job of recruiting engineers and other professionals and training them, if necessary.

“At this juncture, it appears this is a very precarious stage for the industry,” said Surya Rajan, director of upstream research and global gas for IHS.

James Tastard, vice president of human resources for Norwegian oil and gas firm Statoil, said the problem is especially noticeable in Canada and the U.S. For example, in the U.S., the sector is forecasting an outflow of 22,000 petrochemical workers by 2015, just two years from now, he said.

“It’s not a people shortage,” he said.

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Talent and training is the key, Tastard said, adding that people who are having difficulty moving because of underwater mortgages or other financial issues need to be given more incentives to be mobile. Today, there is a large population of the workforce that is young and unqualified to move into the oil and gas industry, but they could be motivated to do so with the right skills.

“It’s a challenge and we are all dealing with it,” Tastard said. “The new generation in reflection is a different generation.”

With retirements looming, some companies are trying to retain and leverage their most senior employees to keep the talent gap from widening.

Sheila Feldman, vice president of human resources at ConocoPhillips, said flexible work schedules and mentoring programs are among the ways her company is achieving that.
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