May 2024, Vol. 251, No. 5

Guest Perspective

Report Highlights Challenges in Attracting Talent to Oil and Gas Sector

By Jon Mattos, Engineering Construction Industry Training Board’s (ECITB) 

The oil and gas sector is at risk of failing to deliver the 28,000 skilled engineering construction workers needed by 2030 — unless it better understands what motivates new entrants, according to a report out today.

The Engineering Construction Industry Training Board’s (ECITB) career motivations study, Inspiring Directions, shows the sector is struggling to appeal to the general population —young people and women in particular — in order to help plug looming workforce and skills shortages. 

The report provides a snapshot of what motivates career choices and on perceptions of the engineering construction industry’s (ECI) different sectors, including oil and gas. 

Findings of the survey, which were announced at the ECITB’s National Forum, show that workers and learners who are already in the ECI view the oil and gas sector much more positively than the general population, making recruiting new entrants from outside the industry a challenge. 

When asked whether they would consider a career in the oil and gas sector, 55% of ECI workers or learners said yes, but this figure was down, at 17%, for the wider population, with 49% saying no. 

The report highlighted that oil and gas ranked bottom of the seven ECI sectors asked about for those aged 16-19 in the general population, with only 15% saying they would consider a career in the sector and 58% answering no.  

These figures were similar when broken down by gender, which could hinder efforts to diversify the workforce. Only 14% of women outside the ECI said they would consider a career in oil and gas, with 58% saying they would not join the sector. 

The ECITB forecasts 28,000 skilled workers will be needed by 2030 in the ECI portion of the oil and gas sector.  

“Given the low ratio of new entrants to retirees in the sector, understanding the career motivations of this group is paramount to ensuring these workforce needs are met,” Chief Executive Andrew Hockey said.  

Tackling Perception   

The oil and gas sector is the largest in which engineering construction contractors operate, accounting for 32% of the ECI workforce in 2023. 

The report cites that although the oil and gas sector is forecasted to decline over the medium to long term, field developments are underway, and decommissioning is ramping up. 

It said that although the sector is offering competitive salaries, it is “vulnerable to a growing skills shortage” due to its ageing workforce, the current view of the sector among the general population — in particular, the perception that the sector is incompatible with net zero — posing future recruitment challenges. 

The research recommends the sector “consider its image and representation outside of the ECI before attempting further recruitment efforts along current paths.” 

It also suggests the sector might be more successful concentrating on recruitment efforts from within the ECI community, where it enjoys relative popularity, rather than attempting to win over a hostile wider public. 

The report’s other recommendations include better communicating the high rates of pay in oil and gas, using ambassadors and alumni to raise awareness — at schools, colleges and job fairs, for example — to change the perception of the sector. 

Career Motivations 

The ECITB undertook research into the career motivations of workers employed in the engineering construction industry, learners working towards industry-relevant qualifications and the public. 

A sample of 1,626 individuals from the wider U.K. population were asked for their views on the different ECI sectors, such as oil and gas, to assess barriers each sector may face when developing policies to expand their talent pool. 

In comparison, 154 people from within the industry — made up of 89 learners and 65 workers — were also asked to give their perceptions, as well as to rank a series of factors to better understand what motivates them in their careers. 

When asked to rate eight factors that motivate their career choices out of ten, respondents ranked “opportunities to progress” (8.30) and “financial considerations” (8.14) as the top two. 

“Opportunities to evolve in a welcoming and inclusive environment” was third, although women place even more importance than men on this factor, scoring 8.18 and 7.59, respectively. Meanwhile, “opportunities to work on the energy transition” ranked at the bottom (6.61). 

The ECI cohort was also asked for views on “career anchors” that can be used by employers to reflect how their organisation aligns with employee motivations, with “security and stability” deemed most important, followed by “lifestyle.”  

The full report:  

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