A common theme expressed by recruiters this week at the 2012 Offshore Technology Conference in Houston was the need to attract senior-level talent in subsea, drilling, production and technology. Competition is very keen for this highly specialized group of oil and gas professionals. For Total and others vying for this talent, identifying and hiring these technical superstars satisfies only part of what is a larger challenge: ensuring that they stay with the company.
"[The] challenge today is not only to find oil reserves. It is to find the people to produce these reserves … to have the right person, at the right time, in the right position," said Laurent Stephane, head of International Recruitment for Development, Operations and HSE with Total E&P.
Once a company such as Total finds suitable candidates to fill these roles, "you have to keep the people and they will advance," Stephane continued.
"We need very competent people and we need to keep these people on the state-of-the-art of the technology," he said, adding that areas such as deepwater/subsea and high-pressure, high-temperature (HPHT) drilling are areas in particularly high demand.
Not only are senior-level positions in subsea and drilling particularly hard to fill, but also candidates for these jobs need to specifically be from the oil and gas industry, Stephane added. He explains they simply have no equal in other industries.
Two other high-demand areas for Total -- production and technology -- provide somewhat more staffing flexibility. For instance, heavy machinery operations and maintenance specialists working in an industry such as aviation may be able to transfer their skills to Total's production operations. Moreover, individuals specializing in areas such as corrosion control and prevention and instrumentation and control systems might be able to make a move to fill the company's technological-oriented roles.
Stephane admits that the ability to transfer from outside the oil and gas industry is often the exception rather than the rule.
"I would say that 70 percent [of the time] you need people with very strong oil and gas backgrounds," he said.
"We are always trying to transfer, but … when you transfer someone it means that you need some tutoring, mentoring, training," Stephane continued. "[M]ost of the training has to be done with someone that is already doing the job, and you cannot at the same time train someone and do the job. So there is a limitation somewhere in the number that you can pull forth from other industries with a relevant background."
Total and other companies seeking access to acreage in certain countries often must agree to "local content" guidelines imposed by host governments. These rules ensure that citizens of that country will enjoy job opportunities on major oil and gas projects. In countries with world-class educational systems, finding qualified personnel may not be difficult for project developers. However, a number of countries with bountiful oil and gas resources have less well-developed educational systems. In such cases, foreign operators such as Total must take the initiative to train locals.
"Today we need to cope with the requirements from the host companies, that is, to have local engineers," said Stephane. "In some countries, that's very difficult. So, you have to take people at a certain level and train them."
Stephane said Total is meeting this need with a "huge competence program." He explained the program identifies the key competencies of locals, what competencies they will have to acquire in the near future and gives them the requisite tools gain the appropriate knowledge and skills. Total's competence program combines collaborations with external companies, internal programs, e-learning and blended learning.
"We are a very technological company where we try to develop the technical competencies of the people," concluded Stephane. "Work is not boring within Total."
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