Maria Griselda Hernández
CEO and Director General
Kelly Services
View from the Top

Mexico Needs to Bridge Yawning Human Talent Gap

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 13:13

Q: The lack of sufficient, highly qualified oil and gas professionals in Mexico still makes it necessary to import talent from abroad. How is Kelly Services working to overcome the local deficit?

A: Today, oil and gas companies request engineers and technicians, including geologists, civil engineers, or chemical engineers, who can manage different types of exploration activities. However, the expertise required will soon move toward other areas in which few Mexican oil and gas professionals have any experience. While we do have very good talent in Mexico, the tools, equipment, systems, and international best practices are still lacking. In some cases, Mexican oil and gas professionals have the right expertise but they are older and will soon retire. Unfortunately, there is a gap of about seven years between the talent of retiring staff and the next generation. The fact that the national energy sector is growing rapidly only accentuates the deficit in the supply of human talent. According to SENER’s projections, the sector will employ 500,000 additional people by 2018, and around 2.5 million more by 2025. Therefore, this is the right time for Mexico to start building up its talent base through a synergy between the government, academia, and industry. We have been working on different strategies to fill the gap. The first step is to bring in the required professionals from abroad to train the local talent who may have the skills but not the expertise. Foreign expertise will help us build up academic programs to nurture future generations and help them understand from very early on what Mexico needs from them. Another strategy is to bring retirees back to help us shorten the gap and accelerate the rate of training for the next generation, in both the private and public sectors.

Q: What are the main strengths of local oil and gas professionals?

A: One of the advantages that Mexicans offer to organizations is their inherent culture of teamwork, which is vital in this industry, given how often people find themselves working together in very different circumstances. Mexican talent is also very creative, often finding innovative problem-solving solutions where more experienced foreign talent stalls. In addition, Mexican corporate culture is very warm when it comes to communicating goals to employees. Many of the incoming companies are from Europe or the US, where the environment is colder and result-focused. In order to get results in Mexico, however, one needs to embrace the talent and treat the employees respectfully as a community. According to a Kelly Services study, the main reason why Mexican employees leave a job is because of the leadership not communicating with them and not telling them about career development opportunities. This was a far bigger problem than salaries. In fact, salaries in the Mexican oil and gas industry are very competitive now. It is by far the best paid industry in the Mexican market, paying between 30 and 40% more than the next best sector. Additionally, many find it very attractive to come to Mexico because expat packages offer plenty of benefits.

Q: Currently, only 20% of local graduates in oil and gas oil and gas related fields work in the private sector, and the rest work in PEMEX, despite the fact that IOCs pay 40% more. How do you think the new industry scenario will change this?

A: It will start moving slowly toward a 50-50 balance. PEMEX has the knowledge to explore natural resources up to a certain level, from which point the private companies will take over. That is going to drive the supply and demand of graduates. Certainly, as the private industry grows and creates opportunities for professionals, talent will start migrating towards those opportunities, taking their expertise to the private industry. On the other hand, having identified this situation, PEMEX is building its own university in order to produce the talent that it requires. Nevertheless, PEMEX cannot build up Mexican talent alone; other universities also have to offer bachelor degrees to serve the Mexican oil and gas industry. Whether people go to work for PEMEX or the private sector will also depend on the generation. Whereas millennials could be more interested in the private industry, both Generation Y and the baby boomers would probably be more interested in working for the public sector because of the certainty and opportunities it brought to them.

Q: Three booming industries in Mexico, oil and gas, automotive, and aerospace, all have a large demand for engineers. How is the oil and gas industry positioned to attract the number of engineers it needs compared with other sectors?

A: Aside from the fact that the automotive and aerospace industries are growing very rapidly, these two industries bring much more value to the engineers because of the ease of transferring from one to the other. In comparison, the oil and gas industry has a very limited scheme of opportunities, which is why it now aims to pay much more to the same engineers. However, it is unclear if the salary packages and benefits to be provided by private companies entering the Mexican oil and gas sector will be attractive enough for those same engineers. Another important factor for these individuals, Mexicans or foreigners alike, is where they are going to be deployed. One of the main challenges for the oil and gas industry is the risk. Some people can get very well paid, but if they have to live in the middle of nowhere and face security issues, they might refuse the job. Therefore, the industry will have to be very creative on how to make sure that talent is safe throughout the whole process.