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Worley - The workforce of the net zero future

Worley - The workforce of the net zero future

Opinion piece from Geeta Thakorlal, President, Energy Transition and Digital, Worley


Climate change is the defining challenge of our generation. So, what does this mean for the future workforce?

Its stark reality is shifting societal expectations. And brings a demand for low-carbon energy.

International net zero commitments are the rallying call for government, industry, and individual action.
And at the centre of the global response to the crisis is the oil and gas industry.

In years gone by, its workforce was stigmatised as being a part of the problem. Today, industry veterans and new recruits alike are better labelled as champions of our net zero future. And their talent and ingenuity will be critical for our shared future.

As the industry embarks on its greatest ever transformation, it’s clear that the workforce of the future will look dramatically different to previous generations.

New thinking will have a profound impact on the workforce.

Building a sustainable business is complex. As oil and gas leaders move towards a digitally enabled, low carbon future, we’re often hearing our customers ask several common questions.

What transferable skill sets do our employees have? Where are the skill gaps? Which roles will we need to fill in the future? Can we retrain existing employees? What kind of company culture do we need to attract and foster top talent? And how do we use this information to inform our implementation strategy?

The answers to these critical questions, among others, are guiding industry leaders in designing the oil and gas organisations of the future. And we see three exciting trends emerging.

Trend one: A new industry culture is emerging

The sustainability challenge comes at a time when skills and capabilities are being lost from the industry as the ‘baby boomer’ generation reaches retirement age.

This brings a skills shortage. But it also brings the opportunity to attract a new wave of talent into the industry. Sadly, though, their attraction isn’t a given. And Surveys show that younger people are still moving away from oil and gas.

Millennials and Gen-Z want to engage in work that directly contributes to a more sustainable world. And they need to be backed up by a culture that embraces experimentation, rewards creative solutions and ‘walks the talk’ to bring those ideas to fruition. 

The oil and gas industry hasn’t always ticked this box. Practices have been well established and became difficult to disrupt. Operators have a responsibility to provide economic returns to shareholders. And fear of failure has all too often hindered innovation.

But that's changing. Shareholders today are demanding sustainable outcomes, not just economic ones. And as digital transformation becomes the strategic priority for many in the industry to enable this, the pace of change is accelerating.

Trend two: Digital is no longer the plaything of early adopters

The digital industrial revolution is unprecedented in scale and complexity. Digital technology has advanced at a breath-taking pace and is now intrinsic to our work and personal lives. And industry adoption is now breaking down barriers between the physical and digital worlds.

The industry still lags in aerospace, defence, automotive, or manufacturing. But there’s a real appetite now to rip up the rule book in the quest to meet sustainability goals. Technologies like artificial intelligence, automation, and predictive analytics are changing how we work. And as a result, fundamental constructs of the industry are being reimagined.

But there’s a note of caution here. In recent years, we’ve started to see a more diverse and inclusive workforce emerging. And that's been like rocket fuel for creativity and innovation. But a recent study by the UK Office for National Statistics found that more than 70 per cent of jobs under threat from automation are held by women.

The case for digital is unquestionable. But this example shows that it requires a well-thought-out adoption strategy and expert implementation to strike harmony with other business accelerators and fully capitalise on the opportunity.

Trend three: The nature of an energy career is evolving

At first glance, the energy transition and digital transformation could seem like a threat to the existing and future oil and gas workforce.

It's true, there is a skill shift happening. But the capability developed through decades of experience within the existing oil and gas workforce is critical to the success of the energy transition.

By 2025, the new energy workforce is expected to scale up by around one third from its 2017 levels. And decarbonisation of the oil and gas industry will create new and exciting ways of working. If you’re eager to utilise your transferable skills, the opportunities are vast. 

If you’re feeling threatened by the emergence of digital, it’s important to consider that technology can't replace the human mind. Humans are problem solvers. It’s what we do best. Your intrinsically ‘human’ skills – critical thinking, creativity, strategy and technology management and upkeep, among many physical and technical skills – will become more important and sought after.

Businesses must undertake skills gap analysis to understand where opportunities exist. They must equip their people with the new skills they need to operate in the emerging industry context and collaborate effectively not just with each other, but also with new technologies.

Where there’s change, there’s opportunity

Given the scale and urgency of the issue, change is inevitable. As individuals, we must be adaptive and open to new challenges and ways of working. And adopt a career learning mentality to keep pace. But great rewards await those that are brave enough to embrace the net zero future.

Read the latest issue of the OGV Energy magazine HERE.


Published: 04-05-2021

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