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Oil and gas companies have to find new ways to attract people into the industry.

One of the biggest impediments to growth facing our industry is not access to capital, legislation or socio-economic stability, but a lack of qualified people.

Ed Daniels, Executive Vice President, Shell Projects & Technology

Ed Daniels, Executive Vice President, Shell Projects & Technology

The human capital shortage has steadfastly risen up the oil and gas industry’s agenda in recent years, and data from the Economist Intelligence Unit confirms how acute the issue has become.1

In its 2011 global survey of senior executives in the oil and gas industry, skills issues came fifth on the list of barriers to growth.

By 2012, the same issue had risen to second and the early indications are that it will remain one of the top barriers of 2013.

And this issue is not going to go away soon because experienced professionals are retiring faster than appropriately qualified graduates are joining the industry.

Moreover, the oil and gas sector is particularly vulnerable because the energy challenges that it faces are unprecedented.

It must find ways to meet rising energy demand, open up new energy frontiers and make the most of existing resources.

And it must do so in environmentally considerate ways. Shell, for instance, currently has about 30 projects under construction worldwide that are part of a four-year capital spending programme of $120–130 billion.

Such projects call for skilled, creative and dynamic professionals to make them fly.

So what can we do to overcome these skill shortages?

First, oil and gas companies have to find new ways to attract people into the industry.

Research by PwC is pertinent here, as it provides some key insights into what makes an organisation an attractive employer.2

Apparently, it is not primarily about remuneration; people place greater emphasis on opportunities to grow and to develop.

On this basis, it might be an interesting exercise to evaluate your value proposition for new employees.

How can you become more attractive to the working population than other organisations?

Furthermore, we also need to put measures in place to keep the people we have worked so hard to employ.

Schlumberger Business Consultancy has found that our industry’s people deficit is concentrated in the mid-career population.3

We cannot solve this problem if we lose people just as they have accumulated vitally important skills and experience.

Well-designed competency and development frameworks may, therefore, encourage people to stay rather than to look for opportunities elsewhere – or to leave the industry altogether.

I strongly believe that people development is key to the ongoing success of our industry.

What is more, I have seen it at first hand.

I have worked for Shell for almost 25 years, and it is clear to me that businesses that focus on engaging, connecting and valuing their people achieve better business results.

Now that our industry’s long-standing skills gap is getting oil companies’ full attention, I hope that, together, we will find new ways to attract, retain and develop highly talented people.


1- “Big Spenders: the outlook for the oil and gas industry in 2012”, Economist Intelligence Unit

2- ”Managing tomorrow’s people: The future of work to 2020”, PwC, 2007

3- ”SBC O&G HR Benchmark 2011”, Schlumberger, 2012

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