Two very different reactions were apparent in the latest Schlumberger Business Consulting’s annual benchmark survey of oil and gas engineer recruitment, unveiled in Paris at the energy sector management consultant’s human resources summit for energy leaders from some 60 companies.
Briefing OE on the results of the survey – now used by the Society of Petroleum Engineers as a reference point for the supply and demand of graduates – SBC president Antoine Rostand (pictured right) said: ‘Basically the stateowned companies have kept their recruitment almost unchanged, while the privately-owned companies have significantly reduced recruitment. They have not stopped recruitment, but they have reduced it on average by 30%.’
He pointed out that national oil companies were in a different position to privately owned ones. Since their planning horizon was much longer, their demand for people had not been affected in the same way. They also had a social agenda, he said, and companies such as Pemex are big employers that are often part of the social fabric.
‘If we have stop/go in the recruitment campaigns it can have a serious effect on the university system and the involvement of the students,’ he warned. The pool of people from which oil companies recruit is a finite one. ‘There will be a surge of activity in three to five years from now, and we will need the people.’
Developing people takes time, Rostand added. ‘When we talk about developing an oilfield, the longest lead time is not the rig, or the pipeline, but the people.’ SBC coined the phrase ‘time to autonomy’ to describe the length of time it takes to train someone from their graduation to managing a project themselves. Time to autonomy is longer in the oil industry than in most other industries.
Traditionally it took eight to 10 years to create an autonomous petrotechnical professional. Companies are now coaching their people to accelerate the time to autonomy. ‘We have a sample of companies who have worked with us, and they have on average moved from nine to six years, so we have gained three years.’
This year’s survey results identified a shortfall in the number of graduate engineers of around 8000, or 6%, of the required number of petrotechnical professionals. ‘I think just by putting the numbers this will be a wakeup call. If we don’t recruit we will not have the right people to develop the next generation of projects,’ Rostand said.
SBC’s previous survey had pointed up the geographical imbalance in where graduates are trained (OE January 2006). Subsequently, on the supply side, enrolment had been increased in shortage countries such as the US and the Middle East, with new universities being built, Rostand pointed out. On the demand side, a lot of companies had substantially diversified their recruitment portfolios. OE