Challenges for the Oil and Gas Workforce

Oil & Gas IQ

A skilled workforce is essential while the oil and gas sector, like many others, looks to continue to grow and recover in the wake of the global economic crisis.

As economic activity rises across the globe, once again increasing the demand for oil, "it is essential that the necessary human resources are available" to allow the industry to thrive, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) highlighted in its most recent World Oil Outlook.


The report stated that worldwide efforts must be stepped up to recruit more talented oil and gas graduates to the industry and increase interest among current employees.

A truly global approach was said to be needed to ensure greater enrolment in and availability of energy related courses to meet the future needs of the oil and gas industry and to "continually broaden the ways and means of training and keeping the talented people the industry takes on."

OPEC said it is essential that the industry does not respond to the current economic climate the way it did to difficulties in the ‘90s, by cost cutting and reducing its pool of skilled labour, which led to problems later down the line.

Ageing Workforce

Bahrain currently relies on the oil and gas industry for 13 percent of its gross domestic product and is looking to increase production by 70,000 barrels per day in the coming years.

This will further increase its need for a long-term skilled workforce; however, fears have been raised following the revelation that the average worker in the country's oil and gas industry is 50 years old.

There is already a 38 percent shortage in skilled labour in the region, particularly petroleum engineers and geologists, according to oil and gas affairs minister and National Oil and Gas Authority (Noga) chairman Dr Abdulhussain Mirza.

Mirza told delegates at a conference: "AllGulfCooperation Council countries are looking to increase their oil and gas capacity and for this, they will compete for limited talent.

"We need a younger generation who have the right qualifications and are more attuned to the new technologies."

Bahrainplans on investing $8 million (£5.1 million) on training its workforce for the future, but the problem is not just localised to the country. Across the Middle East, countries are facing the prospect of a skilled labour shortage.

Michael Ohadi, interim president of the Petroleum Institute in Abu Dhabi, said that up to 50 percent of the skilled oil and gas workforce may retire in the next 10 years and there are not enough graduates waiting to replace them.

"Middle Eastern economies are far behind those of the top 10 worldwide and the region's education system is lacking—we do not have a single university that stands out in the international rankings, let alone a technical university that compares to the standards of the rest of the world," he explained.

UK View of Oil and Gas Recruitment

The UK paints a different picture of the prospects for its oil and gas workforce. The latest report on the demographics within the industry revealed the average age of an offshore worker is 41 years old—which is on par with the national average for the working population between 20 and 60 years of age.

Equality was shown to be improving slightly, with a small increase of 8.4 percent in the number of women working in technical roles in the offshore industry. Female workers were increasing in the lower age brackets, which suggested the continued recruitment of science and technology graduates.

Chris Allen, health, safety, social and environment director with Oil & Gas UK, explained: "The fact that the average age of the offshore workforce has remained unchanged from 2006 implies a steady intake of younger workers to match the ageing of the core workforce or attrition due to retirement."

However, Allen said attention must be paid to the gaps that are emerging in the 30-34 age groups, which could prove to be an issue higher up the management chain.

"Oversubscribed applications for training and graduate schemes run by operators and industry bodies such as OPITO (the Oil & Gas Academy), suggest the issue may not, despite report[s] to the contrary, be the attractiveness of the industry," he added.

The oil and gas industry in the UK is currently working with schools and young people through a number of campaigns and social networking sites.