Staff shortage puts projects at risk

THE petroleum industry’s skills shortage is threatening billions of dollars worth of planned oil and gas projects, a leading recruitment company head told the APPEA conference yesterday.
Staff shortage puts projects at risk Staff shortage puts projects at risk Staff shortage puts projects at risk Staff shortage puts projects at risk Staff shortage puts projects at risk

An ageing workforce and falling graduate numbers would make it hard for companies to meet development commitments, according to Gerard Daniels Australia chief executive Petra Nelson.

“The rate of expenditure on hydrocarbons projects over the next five years shows a dramatic increase, placing pressure on the resources that exist in the local market,” she said yesterday.

“The industry is known for the mobility of its workforce, however demand will increase to such a degree that moving an existing workforce will not meet the scale of need.”

The numbers graduating from engineering and geology courses were continuing to fall and the existing oil and gas workforce was ageing. Ironically, the high salaries enjoyed by senior petroleum professionals were actually accelerating the shrinking of the workforce.

“Many are leaving the industry early and taking advantage of the financial benefits of the industry to enjoy the work-life balance touted as the characteristic of a much younger generation,” Nelson said.

Marketing campaigns aimed at getting more high school students to study science and enter the petroleum industry were necessary, but there would be a seven-to-ten year time lag before these were able to actually deliver trained graduates to the industry, she told

In the meantime, the industry had to consider recruiting and training migrants and staff from complementary industries.

Nelson said Chinese and Indian universities were promising recruiting grounds for Australian oil and gas companies.

Mitchell Drilling director Peter Mitchell agreed.

He told ERN that his firm was recruiting local labour for its Indian and Chinese projects.

“We can recruit engineering graduates as drilling crew,” he said.

“They’re smart and they work hard. We can have them working in the field within a few months and after three or four years they can be leading a team.

“Now we are actually bringing them into Australia to work on local projects. It’s much easier than finding local workers.”

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