Technology to aid in tackling skills shortage

Feb. 20, 2008
Technology will aid in improving the productivity of skilled labor as the petroleum industry struggles to attract and retain new recruits, IP Week delegates were told in London.

Uchenna Izundu
International Editor

LONDON, Feb. 20 -- Technology will aid in improving the productivity of skilled labor as the petroleum industry struggles to attract and retain new recruits, International Petroleum Week delegates were told in London.

Antoine Rosand, a senior executive with Schlumberger Business Consulting, said remote, real-time drilling centers with features such as model-based surveillance and integrated well planning would enable companies to boost production and handle risk better.

Encouraging new entrants to pursue petroleum careers would be tougher in the West, compared with Africa and Asia where the energy industry has a more acceptable public image and people compete for jobs in the industry. India and China in particular are producing thousands of graduates for the petroleum sector. "Most universities are still based in the West, but they need people who attend them to become technical leaders and innovators to bring in students from local areas," Rosand added.

Although the exploration and production industry has sharply increased its recruitment of geologists, geophysicists, and petroleum engineers, global graduate supply is barely meeting the industry's needs, Rosand said. For 2006-10, the net supply of geologists and geophysicists entering the E&P industry is expected to be 60% and for petroleum engineers, 80%.

Operators are worried by the shortage of skilled staff, which is jeopardizing prompt project delivery and production growth and increasing staff salaries as companies attempt to poach personnel.

Although a substantial number of experienced staff is expected to retire within the next decade, they can mentor and train new entrants, said Jon Glesinger, chief executive of Expert Alumni. He called for a new attitude to be developed towards upcoming retirees so their expertise could be retained. "Trust your people sooner, organize yourself to make better use of technology, and leverage your seniors."

The industry also needs to attract and retain technical women who can become leaders in their fields, said Lynda Armstrong, vice-president of technical solutions at Royal Dutch Shell PLC. The company has increased its number of women in senior positions in exploration and production to 7% in 2007 from 3% in 2000. "This is a slow but steady progress as a result of policy changes, mentoring programs, and management training programs," she said.

Females are graduating in greater numbers than men and bring a variety of skills to companies, including networking, Armstrong added. "Gender-diverse teams result in stronger problem-solving capabilities."

Contact Uchenna Izundu at [email protected].