Transferable Skills Are A Must in Oil, Gas Industry’s Labor Shortages


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects 54.8 million total job openings within this decade – with 62 percent of those openings related to Baby Boomers leaving the workforce and not enough skilled people to fill them. This impact to the workforce requires employers to implement strategies to attract top performers from all workforce segments, such as luring needed skill sets from other sectors, to meet current and future recruitment and retention challenges.

By 2029, the youngest Baby Boomer will reach the traditional retirement age of 65, giving organizations time to plan for the potential impact to the workforce. A strategy to this impending problem is to look at both direct and transferrable skills and “embrace a more flexible approach to how work gets done to secure the talent they need,” according to a recent white paper “Facing the Skills Shortage”.

“We talk to our students about transferable skills and very often it’s allowing students to reframe what they already know,” said Vita Como, senior director of the engineering career center at the University of Houston, to Rigzone. “Part of that has to do with the fact that we have a nontraditional student body, which includes working students and veterans. We tell them to understand that they have to view their interview process through the eyes of the recruiter.”

Due to the energy industry steadily witnessing a decline in the numbers of new recruits entering the sector, with science, engineering and technical (SET) skills particularly affected, the risk of future serious shortages in SET skills has emerged, exacerbated by increasing global demand and a large section of the industry’s workforce rapidly approaching retirement. Such shortages are being felt at all professional levels, from technical specialists and operators to leaders and senior managers, according to a “Skills Needs in the Energy Industry” report by Deloitte.

“Employers invariably look for a track record of having delivered in that type of role already – which is why you must be able to convey how you will do the job properly in a resume,” stated Reagan Hill, recruiter for Onward Search, a national digital marketing recruitment firm, to Rigzone. “You have to be aware of what employers are looking for in any employee, and you have to demonstrate that you are employable as a person, a team member and as a contributing member of the organization.”

Individuals that have developed transferable skills from one industry are very attractive to the oil and gas industry, commented Como. Highly sought-after skills that the industry requires include:

  • Technical ability
  • Experience of managing people
  • Sales and business development negotiation
  • Delivering results as part of project teams
  • Evidence of working safely to tight deadlines

“When applying for jobs in the oil and gas industry, individuals should highlight their transferable skills and explain to the employing organization why they feel they are relevant,” said Hill.


As more and more companies implement training programs as a recruiting and retention strategy, this trend is on the rise within the oil and gas industry to fast-track an employee’s skill set. BP plc initiated the “Challenge Program”, an initiative for new graduate recruits in their first three years with the company. During the 12-month program, the recruit gains insight to the three fields of BP’s organization: finance, customer service and operational procurement.

“You will discover BP and get trained on the principles of continuous improvement,” the company said on its website. “Twelve months will give you a lot of challenges and we encourage you to take even more on.”

GE Oil & Gas also implemented a training program, called Edison Engineering Development Program, a 2-year, four-rotation initiative for recent engineering graduates. EEDP is an intensive program designed to accelerate participants’ professional development through intense technical training and a variety of business-critical assignments. The program consists of three or more rotational assignments that are engineering projects driven by real GE business priorities, the company said.

Training is a must-have at every company, a 2013 study found, sponsored by BP and conducted by the Society of Petroleum Engineers, which stated that 53 percent of those surveyed would consider jumping to another employer for lack of training and development opportunities.

Training and development factored heavily into their choice of employment, said 75 percent of surveyors. The study also found 25 percent believe a lack of training hurt their careers.

“Geologists coming from the environmental, coal, glacial, volcanology, and mineral industries have an excellent basic education in geoscience,” Daniel J. Tearpock, Chairman Emeritus of Subsurface Consultants & Associates wrote in a company newsletter. “But when it comes to the required knowledge to be proficient in oil and gas exploration and development, they will need additional training in certain areas to enter this industry ready to be contributing members of the team.”


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