The multiplier effect of building local talent in oil & gas
By Rami Qasem
It is conventional wisdom that the career path of a manager is completely different from that of an engineer or technician. However, most people with experience working in almost any type of organization will tell you that managers who have worked “on the ground” or “in the field” are better managers. They simply understand the business and the work of their subordinates better and so can make better business decisions.
Successfully combating this perception would go a long way to addressing an issue that keeps oil & gas executives and HR managers awake at night these days: “Will we have enough qualified people to run our business today, tomorrow and for years to come?”
A 2012 Deloitte survey of oil & gas industry executives from around the world, including leading figures from the Middle East, found that sourcing the right people and managing human capital were their most strategic concerns. They expressed worry about a “looming talent shortage” in key skill categories, including operations, information technology, risk & regulatory, and research & development.
Another important way to boost the number of qualified people in the industry is to work more closely with universities to create the curricula that give students the skills they will need in the oil & gas industry. Already, regional universities are developing these technical courses. However, these classroom skills can be complemented and strengthened through closer collaboration between academia and industry.
Examples of this include past editions in Abu Dhabi and Doha of GE’s Oil & Gas University, which were developed for industry executives and were well received by participants. The next step is to push this cooperation further to include hands-on industry training for students as well as young and mid-career professionals.
Significantly, these proposed steps also support broader priorities of regional government in the areas of job creation for their citizens and economic diversification. As more young Gulf nationals acquire relevant skills in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects – which they need to become oil & gas engineers and technicians – they will contribute to more vibrant economic growth. They also will be expanding the pool of Gulf nationals working in knowledge-intensive fields such engineering, whether in the energy sector or beyond.
So, addressing the talent shortage in our industry turns out to have multiplier effect. If we succeed, the oil & gas industry so vital to the region’s underlying strength gets the human capital it needs. And, as a greater share of this workforce is comprised of Gulf nationals, the talent pool becomes increasingly sustainable, which further strengthens the sector.
Collaboration between academia and the oil & gas industry is at the heart of these efforts and crucial enabler of their success. Drawing more Gulf national students into the energy sector through a combination of joint initiatives between industry and academia will ensure a bright future for our industry and further drive the region’s current economic dynamism as well.