Oil and gas contractors should pass on their knowledge

Thursday 20 June 2013

Oil and gas contractors are enjoying extremely high demand in current market conditions, with a well-documented skills shortage pushing up rates and guaranteeing opportunities for self-employed professionals. But there appears to be another factor which makes some contractors more attractive prospects than others for energy companies. According to recruiters, oil and gas companies are particularly looking for contractors who are willing to pass on their specialist expertise.

An acute talent shortage in today’s market presents real problems for the sector, the industry experts told Recruiter magazine. But with growing demand for energy and record levels of investment in regions such as the UK Continental Shelf, companies are also concerned about how they will manage to cope with this skills gap in the years to come.

Companies are looking to retain as many skills as possible to achieve their long-term growth plans, the experts agreed, meaning that they tend to prefer contractors who are willing to pass on their knowledge to the firm’s employees. Contractors with experience of working as trainers may particularly benefit from this shift, but ultimately any contractor will be able to take advantage if they are willing to share their skills and experience with conventional employees.

Sarah Bass is a human resources partner in the Asia-Pacific region of GL Noble Denton, a company which provides technical advisory services to different firms around the world.

She explained that in the Asian energy sector it is extremely rare to see teams comprised entirely of expats, so her own organisation focuses on giving local technical staff additional training and guidance to equip them to deal with demand.

“We implement a pyramid scheme which ensures expats can transfer their skills to the local teams, so it is crucial that we only bring onboard expats who are willing to pass on their expertise,” she added.

Chief executive of recruiter Oil Consultants Helen Smith says that a short-term approach to recruitment has left energy firms at a loss for some important skills. The trend towards hiring contractors to carry out specialist work has been effective as a strategy for confronting short-term problems, keeping production and profit as high as possible. But because companies have outsourced these important competencies for so long, employees have not been able to gain experience in some key areas of the industry. In a sense, contractors have created their own demand.

Ms Smith adds that she is aware of a growing number of young contractors becoming frustrated that they cannot command the kind of rates that they might have expected from the industry. Experience is always of value to recruiters, she explains, recommending that prospective contractors build up their skills through a permanent placement first.

She also said that contractors who decide to go solo early in their career need to be aware that for the sake of gaining experience, they will need to be flexible both with pay and location to make the most of international demand. However, it appears that there will be demand for workers who have trained in new technologies.

“Technologies are changing. New production methods such as fracturing and high pressure high temperature or deepwater drilling require the kind of skills that traditional methods cannot provide,” she noted.

By Victoria McDonnell

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