Talent shortage in oil and gas means a seamless candidate experience is more important than ever

Australia’s oil and gas industry directly employs around 18,000 people. While the core workforce is relatively small considering the sector’s high profile, it swells to approximately 80,000 when the industry’s large supply chain is taken into account.

It’s also a highly skilled workforce. Nearly 50% of people in the industry work in positions such as engineering and geophysics on the production side, along with high-level skills in corporate services such as accountancy.

But the industry is facing an avowed challenge in the form of an ageing workforce. As QLD State Gas Ltd Head of Corporate and Commercial Lucy Snelling explained at the national conference of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA), recruiting young people into the workforce is becoming an urgent problem.

“The workforce in the oil and gas industry – and mining generally – is ageing, and not enough young people are joining,” she said. “This presents real challenges – we cannot transition safely if there are not enough people to carry out the essential work and introduce the innovations that are necessary to transition.”

The problem is certainly not limited to Australia’s workforce. In the UK, only 12% of the oil and gas workforce is under 30, with 54% between 30 and 49 and 35% over 50. Deloitte reports a median age of 44+ years in the U.S. with nearly 50% of the industry’s tenured workers set to retire in the next five to seven years. The loss of expertise due to retirements is fuelling a looming skills gap that is worrying many industry players.

Oil and gas recruitment is being impacted by the ubiquitous talent shortage affecting every industry, but is also facing a unique challenge: an awareness of the industry’s direct impact on climate change is leading young people to believe there is no long-term future in the industry (despite record profits this year). In practice, this means young workers are not applying for gas and oil jobs, or leaving the industry to transfer their skills to the booming renewables sector which employed 25,000 workers in 2020 and is expected to grow to 44,000 by 2025.

In other words, oil and gas faces a triple threat where older workers are retiring, young people are not applying for roles and attrition is high among existing employees. Brunel’s Energy Outlook 2022 Report found that young workers aged between 25 and 29 were 25% more likely than older workers to want to leave the energy industry. 40% of Australian recruiters in Australasia believe the industry’s biggest challenge moving forward is an ageing workforce.

Better recruitment processes are one part of the puzzle

According to Brunel, “The energy industry – especially the more traditional areas such as oil and gas and mining that have been around for decades – cannot afford to cling to old methods and values. They must adapt and update their messaging to reflect that change, or risk becoming increasingly out of touch with a new generation of talent.”

The same goes for updating and modernising slow and clunky recruitment processes. With highly-skilled candidates likely to have several offers on the table, it is more important than ever to create a seamless end-to-end experience. This includes:

Background checking: A great candidate experience can be assured in the background checking process by prioritising the candidate’s data security and privacy, shortening turnaround times and keeping them well-informed with plenty of communication and personalised dashboards.

Onboarding: Organisations with strong onboarding processes can improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%. This is vital during a new hire’s probation period where they are assessing whether they have made the right decision in joining your organisation. The onboarding experience should be mobile-first, highly engaging with a mix of content types (text and video) and on-brand. Although it’s important to tick the relevant compliance boxes, onboarding should not just be focused on processes and paperwork.

The employee experience is just as important as the candidate experience, particularly in the context of the oil and gas industry’s high attrition rates. Offering plenty of opportunities for growth, focusing on reward and recognition, creating a positive culture and providing meaningful work are all crucial, along with ironing out clunky or frustrating processes. One of these processes is the ongoing challenge of compliance management. Make it as easy as possible to manage expiring certifications and avoid any compliance-related delays to improve the employee experience.

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