Navigating workforce challenges in an evolving energy industry

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As the energy sector undergoes unprecedented transformation, industry players are grappling with workforce challenges intensified by the pandemic and a pressing need for diverse skills.

With a spotlight on innovative training and cross-industry collaboration, Oil & Gas Middle East speaks to Danielle Wood, Global Compliance Director at Advance Global Recruitment (AGR), part of Dulsco Group, to explore how companies are fostering adaptability, addressing skills shortages, and promoting diversity to harness the opportunities presented by the energy transition and align with the global shift towards sustainable practices.



Can you share some insights into the recent recruitment trends within the energy sector? How have these trends evolved over the past few years, and what drives these changes?


It has been a tough few years for the energy industry, with the exodus of workers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This labour shortage issue comes at a time when activity in the markets is creating a pressing staffing dilemma for many companies.


Recent reviews highlight that the offshore energy workforce mix will change significantly over the next decade, with roles in decarbonised energy sectors, including oil and gas, offshore wind, carbon capture utilisation and storage, and hydrogen, projected to increase from 20 to 65% of all jobs in the offshore energy sector.


In response to the evolving landscape, there has been a heightened focus on upskilling and developing transferable skills to tackle the lack of resources. This new approach directly addresses the issue head-on to ensure that a steady stream of fully compliant, skilled, safety-conscious personnel are available to employers as and when needed.



What key attributes or competencies are employers currently looking for when hiring new talent in this sector?


Employers in this space are grappling with the shortage of readily available skill sets and, in turn, are looking for candidates with transferable skills.


In this context, one strong source of transferable skills globally comes from the military, where individuals bring valuable technical expertise, knowledge of machinery, motors, and subsea equipment. The experience gained from working in a high-pressure, fast-paced environment translates exceptionally well into the demands of the offshore workplace.


By 2030, around 80% of jobs are expected to fall under nine job families: operations, technicians, engineering, projects, commercial/business development/marketing, procurement/supply chain management, finance, HR and HSE.


As energy systems become more localised and integrated regional energy clusters emerge, the offshore energy workforce will become increasingly regionalised. This shift has prompted several national governments to initiate Nationalisation programs to achieve diverse policy objectives, particularly targeting employment and technological development goals. This has resulted in a substantial uptick in the utilisation of these measures in recent years.



With the industry’s rapid technological advancements, how are the expectations from potential employees changing? Is a mix of technical expertise and soft skills becoming increasingly important?


Soft skills are a key addition to the technical requirements to ensure a focus on effective teamwork within the challenging environments of the offshore industry. Three vital soft skills, in particular, stand out: adaptability, collaboration and problem-solving.


Adaptability is paramount because offshore work often extends into different environments, and employees need to adapt quickly to new situations, be comfortable with change and have the ability to collaborate with multi-cultural teams seamlessly.


‍Collaboration is also an essential soft skill. Working effectively as a team, especially in cross-functional settings, is vital. Many a time, spatial confinement and extended durations can lead to potential tension, emphasising the requirement for collaboration.


Lastly, problem-solving skills are crucial when encountering different challenges in the offshore environment. Workers must be adept at finding innovative solutions to navigate the complexities of their tasks.



How can companies use training to help their workforce adapt to changes in the industry, such as renewable energy integration to digitisation?


The industry has been battling a skills shortage for decades, with concerns about the long-term security of positions in the sector proving to be a major hurdle in attracting and retaining younger workers.


However, the emergence of a more integrated energy sector where businesses are evolving their portfolio to include hydrogen, wind, and CCS can support greater job security, building the case for greater investment in people and skills.


Similarly, collaboration will be pivotal in bringing in the influx of new workers required to support the promising pipeline of major infrastructure projects online and deliver greater energy security.


There are challenges, too, of course. Despite that, the need to develop the workforce and attract new people to our industry remains.


The oil and gas industry, cyclic by nature, faces significant resourcing challenges due to an ageing workforce and departures during the COVID-19 pandemic. Addressing the increasing project demands necessitates workforce expansion and skill development. We’ve observed a growing willingness for cross-industry collaboration to support diverse projects. However, proactively identifying development areas and implementing training programs are essential to pre-emptively address potential gaps.



Could you provide examples of innovative training strategies that have helped employees transition smoothly during periods of industry disruption?


There has been significant investment in the innovative new training division to tackle the skills shortages threatening major projects across all sectors of industry. It has leveraged existing industry knowledge to identify the areas causing the greatest issues for clients across a broad range of projects, establishing key partnerships to improve the level of training offered for contractors globally.


Within months of opening its doors, the newly established training division had supported more than 1200 delegates through a variety of courses, including Trainee ROV Pilot Program, Greenhand Program, ACO Program, Blade Tech Programs, Industry Safety Training Globally, and Verification and Competency Training.


Funding support – AGR made the decision to allow any candidate who is actively working for them and is looking to upskill or renew any certification to pay the training costs over the period of the confirmed trip. This has greatly widened the resource pool, leading existing talents to upskill and develop to the next level; since the pandemic, due to economic reasons, many people do not have the funds to upskill.


Supporting veterans – With extremely transferable skill sets, our veterans are well suited to the energy sector and its conditions. AGR has successfully supported military personnel to enter the industry by fronting the cost of the training and allowing the payment plan to be implemented once the personnel is working.



Achieving a diverse and inclusive workforce is a goal for many companies. How can energy companies balance hiring for specialised technical skills and promoting diversity within their teams?


Education plays a key role, involving close workings with further educational facilities and developing a wide range of courses and disciplines for the workforce.


Investing in people is central to loyalty, and retention of personnel and interns allow us to meet client expectations. Another solution is offering training options that allow entry into the sector and opportunities for existing skills to retain and re-enter the industry.


Upskilling the existing workforce demonstrates a commitment to allowing all personnel and ensuring training is available to all. Companies must look to the future, too, in attracting new talent to the industry, which is why we’re establishing partnerships with universities and increasingly targeting those leaving the military and other sectors with transferrable skills.


Offering targeted training programmes and attracting new talent will be key to developing new projects, which are vital to our collective net zero ambitions, but simplifying the offshore working requirements will represent a considerable step forward, too.


That’s why the alignment of offshore safety and technical standards being progressed on behalf of the industry will be a welcome boost to many who have the skills and capability to work across multiple sectors of our energy industry to contribute more broadly to the transition. At every stage, collaboration is critical, and we must continue to pull together to realise the potential of the energy transition for our industry and our workforce.


Source: oilandgasmiddleeast