The average age of workers in the industry is approaching 60, and mass retirements aren’t too far off. Yet, there is a severe lack of mid-career employees in the industry and not enough entry-level employees to rise up the ranks to replace them. This results in many unfilled middle-management positions and serious concerns about the industry’s ability to find the talent to take on crucial leadership positions.

Publication: RigZone

Article Title: Filling in the Gaps: Creating a Talent Pipeline for the Oil & Gas Industry

Author: Sylvia Vorhauser-Smith, SVP of Research, PageUp People

Publication Date: February 27, 2012


While there is great opportunity for companies to leverage the slow but steady influx of the new generation into the industry, there are some enormous challenges that remain, such as acquiring more college graduates from all over the world. The companies that figure out how best to attract and retain the new generation of workers from the global talent pool will be most successful in developing succession plans to fill the gaps left by the aging workforce.

Minding the Gap

The reason for the lack of mid-career workers can be traced back to the 1990s, when low energy costs made careers in the oil and gas industry seem unstable. And while there are a sizeable number of new entrants waiting in the wings to fill in these key gaps, the numbers aren’t strong enough to ensure sustainable sources of talent to take over leadership positions across the industry. With universities in the United States producing only 20 percent of the engineering graduates they did 20 years ago, there are valid concerns about how companies can fill in the key employment gaps.

Some companies try to compensate for the lack of middle-management positions by investing heavily in the training and development of their emerging talent. Setting up global rotation programs can allow employees to develop a broad base of skills across different regions and countries, helping them prepare for the increasingly global dynamic of the industry. Additionally, some organizations have established mentoring programs whereby older employees share their knowledge with younger colleagues, ensuring that industry know-how is passed on to the next generation.

Many companies have also turned to talent management technology to facilitate the employee development process and ensure that qualified workers receive the training necessary to fill key positions. Such technology allows companies to plot their current talent and link their skills with the business needs required in the future.

Three Ways to Fill in Talent Gaps

The methods outlined above can help to develop and retain those new workers already employed with oil and gas companies. But to ensure a sustainable supply of talent, companies need to attract a new generation to join the industry. The following three methods can be used to draw in new workers and ensure a steady pipeline of talent to fill key employment gaps:

Tap the Global Talent Pool

As competition for skilled workers increases across the industry, companies need to expand recruitment strategies across borders. Of particular interest to the oil and gas industry are high growth regions like China and India and the emerging markets of Southeast Asia, such as Vietnam and the Philippines. These international markets are hotbeds of new talent, producing larger numbers of engineering graduates compared to the domestic market.

Engage with the Education Sector

Companies in the oil and gas industry can also attract more candidates from the new generation by working closely with colleges and universities. Through outreach initiatives with the education sector, the industry can highlight the many opportunities available for new graduates and work to develop the skills needed for positions in the industry. Moreover, companies can combat the negative preconceived notion that all industry jobs involve working on a rig by emphasizing other in-demand industry jobs, such as accountants, environmental specialists, and health and safety professionals.

Another strategy for attracting new graduates is for companies to essentially grow their own talent through internship programs. By hiring interns and training them to have the skills needed for future positions, companies can offer high performing interns employment upon graduation. Organizations that have already implemented such strategies have found that employees who started out as interns are more likely to remain with the company.

Highlight Career Paths

Organizations have increasingly raised compensation rates as a way to acquire top talent, but the next generation of employees wants more than a high salary; they want jobs with companies that can promise ongoing growth and opportunities for advancement. By developing critical competency profiles for current gaps and positions needed for the future, companies will have a blueprint for the crucial employee skills and experience required for key positions.

Talent management software can be used to match candidates to the positions they are most qualified for, ensuring that the right people are put into the right roles. Additionally, by discussing personal goals with candidates, employers can show candidates the opportunities within the company available to them. Demonstrating the many possible career paths for entry-level employees will play a vital role in attracting them and retaining them in the long term.

The oil and gas industry has always been an environment of high risk and high reward. In today’s dynamic work landscape, there is high risk for companies that don’t embrace talent management strategies to prepare for the retirement of their most experienced workers, and high reward for the companies that best leverage the next generation of workers. How companies adapt to the challenge of losing their experienced employees and finding new candidates from around the world to replace them will determine their future success.

Sylvia has more than 25 years of experience in corporate and entrepreneurial business environments, including Head of Selection and Development at Westpac Banking, HR Manager for Citibank and GM of Integrated Talent Management for PageUp People. Prior to joining PageUp People, Vorhauser-Smith was Founder and CEO of consulting firm Talent Edge, specializing in bespoke leadership development and talent management solutions.