How Will Industry Tackle Talent Gap Conundrum?Wed, 01/18/2017 - 13:14
As an influx of new players pour onto Mexico’s oil and gas scene, the industry hopes that job opportunities will be created for Mexican nationals. In fact, companies entering through CNH’s licensing rounds are required to employ local content as per the terms of each contract. Round 1.4’s winners, for example, must comply with local content rates of 3 percent during the exploration period, increasing to 8 percent later in the project. But concerns abound over a skills shortage ranging from English proficiency, to deepwater knowledge and corporate savvy. Mexico Oil & Gas Review asked a range of industry players their view on Mexico’s oil and gas talent gap.
Concerns have been raised regarding a lack of vocational training in degree programs in Mexico. Graduates in relevant degrees such as geology or engineering tend to lack practical experience in their field. Companies entering the market will need to create schemes to help these graduates ease into the real aspects of the working environment, or take a chance on candidates with no work experience. Mexico has a good university system but it could perhaps interact more with the private sector for training purposes and to increase the employability of their graduates. Mexico needs to invest more in its education system to ensure the country is equipped with the correct talent to the the oil and gas industry’s future needs.
The talent drain resulting from the retirement of PEMEX’s employees has left an opportunity for new generation courses and careers. We started a course two years ago for PEMEX executives detailing industry knowledge all along the production process. We believe the human resources gap can be addressed through education. Many of PEMEX’s former employees are now teachers who are transferring their knowledge as a way to thank PEMEX for their evolution and opportunities given. We have already offered our services for educational purposes to CNH, CENAGAS and private companies as well.
This is an issue that has been raised with us principally by PEMEX’s technicians and engineers. The problem is that experienced workers are already retiring, leaving a gap between them and younger engineers. América En Triunfo has helped to close this talent gap because our products require fewer personnel to operate and we fully train all users. Before, cleaning a heat exchanger may have required 20 people but now we offer solutions that require only four operators. The talent gap is worsened by the fact that a lot of information in PEMEX has been lost over the years due to the manual way they used to work. Technological solutions will help protect data because information will be stored securely to be passed on to the next generation of workers.
Guido Van Der Zwet
Understandably the country lacks experience in deepwater operations because it has never been done in Mexico. There is a gap between the younger and older generations, which becomes an issue when companies look for 10 to 15 years’ experience before hiring applicants. After 25 years PEMEX employees are allowed to retire and 4,500 of them have done so in the past few years but the NOC tries to postpone retirements from key positions. IPS also looks for laid-off workers from countries like Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia to bring to Mexico. Another skills gap in Mexico is the language barrier. Historically the working language of PEMEX was Spanish but as new companies arrive the international standard of English as the working language must be adopted.
When Sapura expanded to Mexico two years ago, we brought our global philosophy of being a local company. Our Mexican office has 45 team members and only five are ex-pats. We operate according to our global standards, processes and procedures but we also recognize Mexico’s long history in oil and gas and the fact that there is plenty of talent available here. Although we managed the construction of a subsea pipeline with a predominantly Mexican team, there are still issues with fluent and industry-knowledgeable English speakers in the country. Our main client’s official working language is Spanish, so when new players arrive they have to face the fact that all contracts and reports are in Spanish, which can be challenging
The first talent gap companies will come up against is English language ability. In the past the oil and gas industry here did not concern itself with language simply because there was little need. This is a Mexico-wide problem that touches every industry. Another issue is that many PEMEX employees who are close to retirement will refuse to leave the NOC because of its elevated pension rates. PEMEX’s technicians are talented but are already aging within the organization. Big efforts have been made by the Instituto Politécnico Nacional and Mexican Petroleum Institute (IMP) to educate new geologists and these youngsters will be valuable. This is particularly true for the private sector because the way students are being taught is more aligned with the needs of private companies.
Although English is critical for any industry, I believe that 100 percent English is not necessary for technicians because their position requires English expertise in very specific terminologies, such as welding, cementing or painting. The technical knowledge is the priority and 50 to 70 percent English is required. There will be a set of positions that need 100 percent English but those are limited and the focus should therefore be on the technical scope that the vast majority of positions require. There is also a lack of talent for upper-echelon positions. PEMEX managed all of the country’s industrial facilities, while its suppliers focused on exploration, extraction, operations, logistics and sales, so many companies lack experience in managing facilities and workforces. We believe that collaborating with PEMEX will help companies improve this knowledge.