By Nicholas Newman
It’s not a scarcity of oil the world should be worried about but more importantly a desperate skills shortage of engineers. This is especially so for the global energy industry. For many jobs, the number of vacancies exceeds the number of skilled experienced engineers that are available. Already, such shortages are causing significant delays and costs for major projects including development of offshore oil fields off Angola. Whilst in Brazil, the home of samba, tropical rainforest and traffic jams, this developed county is in a desperate search for engineers to construct 12 super tanker sized FPSO’s over the next decade. Such skills deficiencies are harming energy security, harming economic recovery and the ability of the world to meet its ambitious CO2 targets.
The only solution the energy industry has is to pay higher salaries and offer better conditions. Already, in Australia many engineers with energy related expertise are starting on salaries of AUS$20,000 a month. Even in the remotest desert locations of Australia or Iraq, the camps offer the best in accommodation and food. Ironically, sub sea engineers are amongst those in greatest demand.
As to why there is a shortage of energy engineers, in part, it is due to lack of sufficient support from governments, universities and industry to ensure adequate levels of people are trained every year. It is also due to demographics, as the workforce ages and the cyclical nature of the industry. The issue is not helped by the sheer number of new projects worldwide that are being developed and coming on stream. In Australia, for instance the boom in mining of coal, iron ore and uranium is taking place at the same time as a boom in oil, gas, solar, power and unconventional gas projects. Because of poaching between the different energy sectors, pay and conditions have had to be drastically improved, in a desperate attempt to overcome such workforce shortages.
Due to it being a sellers’ market for engineers, energy companies are having to becoming more sophisticated in recruitment practices. Increasingly they are relying on experts talent scouts to find, identify and select as well as maintain the loyalty of the engineers in this very competitive global market. In addition, many recruitment agencies are proactively working on behalf of their clients Total, Shell, ENI to co-ordinate the development of skilled candidates in their energy related studies at engineering colleges and universities throughout the world.
Governments such as Australia, Angola and Brazil are actively using local content policies to ensure that the energy industry makes sufficient investment in local training in order to overcome the global energy sectors current labour shortages. Until this problem is resolved pay for energy engineers on these projects is likely to continue to climb.
Nicholas Newman is an established energy journalist with deep expertise and experience in the technology, geopolitics, markets and policies involved in the global energy industry business.