As companies in the oil and gas industry struggle to find experienced and knowledgeable engineers, Jee, a subsea engineering and training specialist, is introducing new ways to help fill the skills gap. In doing this Jee is not only supporting its own recruitment drive but also helping a number of its clients.
It’s always on the news, in industry magazines and on websites – oil and gas companies cannot find engineers with the experience and skills to match their specific requirements. Two thirds of the Society of Petroleum Engineers’ (SPE) membership is now over 40 years old and according to Cambridge Energy Research Association (CERA) more than half of all oil field professionals will reach retirement age in the next decade. Offshore Petroleum Industry Training Organisation (OPITO) and Engineering Construction Industry Training Board’s (ECITB) research shows that over 50% of oil and gas sector companies consider a skills shortage as their number one challenge.
Many companies are looking abroad for experienced subsea engineers. Australia’s government issued a report in December 2010 where petroleum engineers were considered in short supply. The UK has similar issues with finding home grown engineers and this problem seems to be spreading further with reports of shortages in the Middle East, where national and international oil companies are looking to the West for recruits.
What are the options?
Whilst governments worldwide are trying to encourage students to gain qualifications in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects as a long term plan to increase the skills pool, there are drives to recruit from abroad, which shifts the shortage to another location. Many graduate programmes were reduced or cut during the global recession and many experienced engineers are reaching retirement age so this problem will only continue to get worse.
Experienced engineers are reporting that despite the apparent shortage of skills they are still having problems finding jobs. It appears that the issue is not with finding good engineers, but finding good engineers with the right skill set. The only way to successfully increase the number of well-qualified subsea engineers is for companies to invest in training programmes and encourage more engineers to join the oil and gas industry.
Jee is a subsea engineering firm with ambitious growth plans. The exasperating experience of seeking out home grown talent and the increasing shortage of well-qualified, available international engineers has led to the company investing in an innovative solution. Expanding their own knowledge base Following the issues Jee had with recruiting the right people with the right knowledge, they decided to broaden the search to include well-qualified mechanical engineers working in other industries.
With Jee’s specialist training division, they were able to recruit from disciplines such as the army, defence and manufacturing/process engineering and fast-track these engineers through their conversion training programme. This, along with on-the-job mentoring and coaching, brings them up-to-speed in subsea engineering in record time. This approach allows the continued planned growth of Jee as an engineering company as well as meeting client demands for subsea engineering expertise. Through the programme, engineers will become experienced in many areas of subsea, including subsea systems, pipeline design, operation and integrity management, decommissioning and renewables.
As well as Jee’s core modules, recruits will have the option to attend Onshore pipelines and Reeling design calculations courses (see image). Engineers will also have the opportunity to complete an offshore survival course as part of their training. Engineers who are not chartered will also have a Jee expert as a mentor to support them through the process of gaining this merit.
Jee has recently been joined by a number of conversion engineers with different levels of experience and designed their own training programme for each individual, depending on their experience.
Brad Hale, a new Jee recruit whose engineering experience is mostly derived from service in the Royal Navy, primarily in the Marine Engineering branch as well as working in the nuclear industry, will be working through the Jee conversion programme.
Discussing his decision to join Jee he says: “I wanted to work for Jee as I was keen to enter an organisation where the emphasis is on significant engineering application and analysis. I believe that the fast-track training programme that I will undertake will really give me a head start in the industry and also directly working on subsea projects from day one is the best way to hone my new skills. There isn’t anywhere else where I can work on technical projects and take the time for intensive training.”
The reason this programme is a success is that completing the Jee subsea competence scheme requires a lot of commitment from both Jee and the engineer. Only those truly willing and able to excel within the subsea arena sign up.
Shaping your team
In recent years, due to a lack of skilled resources in some of the major international oil and gas companies, Jee has seconded their well-qualified and trained engineers for long term contracts to help with their clients’ work load and new projects. Jee has also tutored engineers from other companies, bringing them into their own team and offices to train them on subsea projects. Working through the subsea training programme with on-the-job coaching enables the engineers to return to their own company better prepared for pipeline projects.
Jee is now looking to the future and has brought together their combined engineering, training and recruitment expertise to make available their subsea engineering training programme to the whole industry. Essentially, this scheme could provide an organisation that currently has a skills shortage with a whole subsea team, well trained and ready to hit the ground running.
Jenny Matthew, Head of Courses at Jee Ltd says: “We have been training the subsea industry for 16 years and through our engineering and training expertise, we are in a position to share our knowledge to broaden the subsea engineering skill pool so that the energy industry can continue to progress.” Jee’s plan of action to fill the engineering skills gap is to work with clients to understand their specific needs, locate talented engineers from within and outside the oil and gas industry and propose a training programme to bring these people up-to-speed in the right areas.
Jee will provide clients with a comprehensive training and coaching programme designed to ensure engineers have the exact skills they require for their current and upcoming projects. Clients can rest assured that if an engineer has been put through the Jee tailored training programme, they will have the right skills and experience to hit the ground running. This approach will save time and recruitment costs, and as Jee has been doing this themselves for a number of years, they have the experience to know what works. Clients really see the benefits of working with Jee to help their business operations.
Proving it works
Anietie Jeremiah, an onshore pipeline specialist attended 7 of Jee’s subsea courses to give him the knowledge needed to become a subsea expert.
Commenting on his completion of the courses, Anietie said: “The decision to attend these courses was probably one of the best I have ever made in my career. Simply money and time well invested!” Whilst he sought out this training himself, his company has benefited from his new capabilities; “My bosses have been very appreciative of my efforts in completing these courses and my attendance has been really helpful in opening up options in my career path. I am now able to practise in the subsea industry and I am already being considered for a new role overseeing a subsea pipeline project.”
A proven track record to meet future needs
Jenny Matthew, Head of Courses at Jee Ltd said: “We are delighted to be able to offer our clients a different approach to building their engineering teams. We think that our track record speaks for itself – we have a successful background in building engineering skills in a wide range of circumstances. We are convinced that the Jee engineering subsea programme will increase the pool of skilled engineers in the oil and gas industry and help companies in their search for local experts in the years to come”.
Article printed in World Pipelines magazine, November 2011