The two sides of the skills equation don’t quite add up – on the one hand our industry is facing shortages of competent individuals to support it, and on the other there are a lot of young engineering and technical graduates looking for skilled jobs. As Sarah Beacock FEI explains, the industry should do a better job of promoting itself as one that can offer a secure and rewarding future.
At the 2013 International Petroleum Week conference in February I was very pleased to be able to chair a panel on how the industry can meet its talent needs for our future energy challenges. It’s a topic that we have returned to a number of times over recent years and one that probably won’t go away in the short term.
At face value it seems a simple equation: An attractive future for the energy industry + skilled young people looking for an interesting career = a plentiful talent pool for the future. However, this doesn’t always seem to be the case in practice. Perhaps we should look at these three features in more detail.
An attractive future for the energy industry
Everyone working in the energy industry knows that, not only does it have a long-term future, it is one that is absolutely key to future life on earth. Since our ancestors first discovered fire, energy has been critical to human survival and development. It is a far more important sector to our future than digital media and telecommunications for example, and yet these are much more high profile career choices for the young. It’s not an industry they can relate to because it’s not an industry they come into contact with or know anything about.
The industry itself must bear the responsibility for changing that situation. We all have good news stories to tell the world and we must become less shy about telling them. If you’re a recruiter or employer, there are a host of actions you can undertake to give back to the industry:
- Actively promote the positive aspects of both the industry and its workforce to the communities you serve.
- Support the universities and training programmes from which you recruit with their curriculum development.
- Contribute staff time to initiatives such as STEMAmbassadors and the Big Bang Fair.
- Offer a range of staff benefits in addition to an attractive salary.
- Provide a commitment to training and development for new recruits.
- Get development programmes for new recruits accredited by a professional body.
- Actively encourage staff to pursue post-qualification recognition such as Chartered status (see box).
- Contribute to conferences and technical programmes to enhance the industry’s collective knowledge as a means of staff development.
- Strive for our suggested Standards of Excellence in Energy (see box opposite).