Bloomberg News

U.K. Oil Industry Going as Far as New Zealand for Skilled Staff

September 28, 2011

Sept. 28 (Bloomberg) -- U.K. North Sea oil and gas companies are seeking skilled senior managers as far away as New Zealand because of wage inflation and a shortage of specialists at home, recruiters said.

Worldwide, the oil and gas industry is going to lose at least half its “high quality” experienced labor in the next 10 years because of retirement, said David Doig, chief executive officer at industry-funded training organization OPITO. At the same time, skilled workers without experience, so called green hands, are trying to secure jobs and are even willing to pay up front for their training.

“It can be quite difficult to penetrate,” Doig said in a phone interview from Dubai. “If you speak to the drillers they will tell you that they have no shortage of people applying to get into the industry.” Problems arise when companies need qualified people with experience. “It’s a very small crew.”

U.K. oil and gas field operators, such as BP Plc and Total SA, have programs that target graduates and equip job candidates with the required experience. OPITO is seeking workers, predominantly with technical skills, in 36 countries from Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia to Australia and New Zealand.

Maersk Oil, a unit of A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S, has a graduate hiring program, sending the trainees to various locations during the first two years to get different experience, said Martin Rune Pedersen, managing director at the U.K. division. The company has hired more than 80 people locally this year bringing the total to about 800 people.

Army, Navy Veterans

“We have recruited very, very heavily in 2011 and we’ve been quite successful in lending very high-quality staff,” he said in an interview in Aberdeen, Scotland. “We rotate people and we are very focused on career opportunities, and that’s what keeps people in the company.”

The U.K. oil industry attracts Army or Navy veterans, electricians and mechanics from the fishery industry and many other skilled workers without experience at offshore platforms, said Ann-Marie O’Connor-Hanlon, a director at Rigman Offshore (UK) Ltd. At the same time, there is shortage of skilled senior managers with experience in the offshore oil and gas industry, such as tool-pushers, sub-sea engineers, chief electricians or rig managers.

“We have noticed a marked increase in candidates registering on our website, in particular those applying for senior offshore positions,” O’Connor-Hanlon said, speaking in an interview in Aberdeen, the center of the U.K. oil industry. “Unfortunately, there is a great shortage of experienced personnel and ideally we need to employ candidates who have a good educational background such as university graduates.”

Chinese, Indian Engineers

Rigman extended its search for qualified people to Latvia, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Korea, Croatia, Poland, India, New Zealand and Australia.

“We need engineers and we lack engineers globally,” Patrice de Vivies, senior vice president for Northern Europe at Total, said in Aberdeen. “We have more and more to count on engineers coming from India or from China.”

Aberdeen’s remote location and high property prices make it difficult to convince people to move there, Doig said. Two-week shifts at offshore rigs also make it difficult for people to accept jobs.

--Editors: Alex Devine, Stephen Cunningham

To contact the reporter on this story: Eduard Gismatullin in London at egismatullin@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Will Kennedy at wkennedy3@bloomberg.net


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