The Big Crew Change: Will they ever learn?

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The Big Crew Change, up until the downturn of the oil price, was one of the largest sector challenges known to the oil and gas market. The world knows the industry is not what it was three years ago, but what we fail to recognise is the oil decline of the ‘80s was not only just as sudden, it was (in many ways) more devastating and merciless than the downturn we know today.

This crashing of the market eliminated the need for workers, as by 1986, the number of oil rigs dropped to worryingly low figures. An industry that was once identified as one that pays generously, saw its professionals turn away from the careers they once knew as secure and munificent. Sound familiar?

The industry’s ‘Baby Boomers’ (those born between 1946 and 1964) have, in the last few years, become retirement-eligible. During and after the 1980’s downturn, approximately 25% of the energy market left the sector, as almost half a million jobs dissolved. The generation after the Baby Boomers is now in short supply, but a bunch of people retiring is a mere contributor to an oil and gas skills shortage. There are a number of impacts, which will, in turn, develop into the worst skills shortage the industry has ever seen.

The frustrating truth is, that a lesson should have been learnt. Fool me twice, shame on me, right? The oil and gas industry’s leaders took the hit for the failure to support their professionals, as well as the failure to encourage young people to enter the industry through the halting of graduate schemes. There was a huge sense of regret among the industry’s leading companies and it was globally recognised that professionals had been mistreated; a classic case of ‘We promise we’ve learnt our lesson’

Fast forward to today, where once again, the downturn is forcing companies to significantly minimize investment and costs. So, where do companies turn to make these deductions? You guessed it: recruitment and graduate schemes... (Sigh)

Now, that’s not to say that every oil and gas company has stopped hiring. Oil and gas job boards wouldn’t exist, otherwise. But, there is a lack of belief in the importance of candidate attraction since this downturn occurred. The effects of the 1980s oil crisis is already contributing to a skills shortage today. The industry will continue to go through this vicious circle until a lesson is truly learnt. There are necessary costs that companies must continue to address, downturn aside. But retaining skills and talent are factors that are not always seen in this light.

With the boom of Renewables, the oil and gas skills shortage can only worsen. Students have the option of a healthy Renewables sector that is upcoming, modern and ethical (factors that statistics show, are highly valued by the millennials), so we can rightly assume that this is a more attractive choice for the young professionals of today.

In a recent survey conducted by Energy Jobline, we found that just over 50% of energy respondents aged between 18 and 24 years old favoured Renewables as a sector to work in. The appeal of the wider energy industry, combined with the lack of investment in recruitment and graduate schemes poses a worrying threat to oil and gas.

Do we really want a skills shortage to be the next challenge once the downturn subsides?

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