Oil companies face threat of missing middle management

With oil prices reaching dizzying heights, upstream and downstream companies are rolling out projects, one after another. Each of these projects requires millions of dollars, tonnes of supplies, and most importantly, qualified and skilled people. However, despite high salaries and enviable perks, not many are interested in working for the industry.

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By  Jyotsna Ravishankar Published  January 8, 2006

With oil prices reaching dizzying heights, upstream and downstream companies are rolling out projects, one after another. Each of these projects requires millions of dollars, tonnes of supplies, and most importantly, qualified and skilled people. However, despite high salaries and enviable perks, not many are interested in working for the industry. According to most recruitment consultants in the region, the energy companies are fighting a tough battle. “With every passing year, the oil industry is progressively getting short-handed,” said Tanya Oldenzeil, recruitment executive, worldwideworker.com. Oil companies are resorting to all kinds of tricks and treats to excite people to join the “lucrative” industry. “It may seem surprising to many, but even people born in the Middle East do not see the oil industry as potential employers,” she said. The oil industry today requires not just manpower, but people with very high qualifications and experience to fill the widening gap in middle management in most companies. The recruitment consultants in the region attribute this crunch to a variety of causes. The oft-repeated excuse, is of course, the bust of the 1990s, where people in the industry either came under the axe or left due to an uncertain future. Even the image of the industry has been blamed by many for failing to attract the talented engineers. “Let’s face it, the oil industry was never glamorous, most people considered it a ‘dirty’ industry,” says Oldenzeil. But today, the oil companies are making an effort to conduct a serious recruitment drive that would not only change its image, but also employ the much-needed people to complete the old projects and execute the new ones. High oil prices have brought with them intense competition among companies for fast-track projects. In Oman, for instance, until recently state-owned Petroleum Development Oman was the only company involved in enhanced oil recovery (EOR), but now with the entry of Occidental into EOR projects, both companies have begun wrangling over their most precious resource — manpower. PDO has woken up to this harsh reality and is consciously seeking to spread a fresh, clean image about itself and the industry. The company had a stand at the International Petroleum Technology Conference in Doha, where it sought to publicise the fresh image while also actively looking out for skilled resources. “The primary aim of PDO in most exhibitions these days is to find people,” said a company source. It is also actively advertising in papers and recently conducted about 100 interviews in India, added the source. Most other state-owned companies, like Saudi Aramco, have also begun participating in Oilcareerfairs. Oilcareerfairs is an annual headhunting event organised by the worldwideworker.com and the Society of Petroleum Engineers. The career fairs are meant to attract both existing engineers in other companies, as well as students from the national universities, said Oldenzeil. But, the consultant says, over the years the situation has only worsened, with people having a whole lot of options available to them, both within the industry and outside. Despite the challenges, Matthew Smith, senior human resources manager QatarGas, is a happy man. He has met his recruitment targets for the year, but with a great deal of effort. “Most of us have put in something like 60 hours a week to hire the right resource,” he says. But, Smith believes, the newer companies like Dolphin Energy have more of a problem, as the established ones can at least shuffle around their existing talent. According to many analysts, however, the Middle East market is also paying a price for its inefficiency in recent years, as it did not try enough in the past to create a system to produce qualified students and employees. Instead, the governments pushed oil companies to effectively make job creation schemes. Today, most oil companies themselves are trying to change the situation, as there is no longer any cheap oil and the realisation that only people qualified for the job can extract what is left in the ground has occurred. What is ADNOC doing about it? Read Oil&Gas Middle East Hard Copy

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