Let’s face it. It’s not the best time to be part of the oil and gas industry. Or is it? Outsiders and laymen would have us believe that the industry is close to hitting rock bottom or even worse, it’s already a lost cause. But nothing could be further from the truth. Again, it is a matter of perspective. Hard, troubled times, unfortunate circumstances and uneven odds: this is what builds characters, what builds careers. Everyone is talking about the low price of oil. Organize the project, maximize this value, reduce that cost, this is all the companies are talking about. Hold up, are we not forgetting something? Why are we here, and who brought us? We are forgetting about the core of every company, the men that built it from the ground up. And I’m not talking just about the idea men or the numbers men. They have it covered. I’m talking about the little guys, the men and women who are knee deep in mud, the operators, the engineers and the handlers. The men who drill the wells, work on the oil platforms and face the burning desert heat just so we have something to talk and write about. The Oil and Gas Workers Day is just as special for them as it is for the suits, we should never forget that. That being said, what are we doing for the oilmen of tomorrow? If this industry moves forward it is because we still have the men to propel it forward. Not mere executors, but talent. Happily, new and mature companies alike have realized that in order to have a future they must prepare in the present. In order to assure that profits stay as high as ever the companies must assure that quality stays the same. In order to stay competitive, the companies must develop new talent management strategies, new programs for training and so on. And this requires money that the industry can’t spare right now. But save it today and you may end up losing it tomorrow. Fact of the matter is that people actually can and should be replaced. But employees with the unique skill sets required to work and navigate this industry don’t grow on trees. They have to be groomed. Generations need to be changed but not before the knowledge is passed on. Some companies currently retain scientists, engineers and geophysical experts of retiring age for the sole purpose of training their replacements. All would be fine and well if not for the new emerging trends of robotics and drones that require even more technology savvy personnel. The big companies realized that this gap needs to be bridged somehow and have started to invest and acquire the staff that they were lacking. The key is to find the people that can adapt quickly to the company’s inner workings and at the same time pass on their knowledge. Educational and retraining programs have become as vital as filling vacant positions with people already present in the internal structure. Other important companies have as well prepared for this and have already started their business wise international training programs and excellence centres. As resources wane, competition has become the name of the game and only the professionals will make the cut. Unified training, with a solid background of shared values seems to be the only way to move forward. Succession plans and management process will highly benefit from a standardized approach.

Each company should create a unified database with access to worker skills, education level, abilities and competence, a system that will greatly facilitate training in the specific areas needed for evolution. The benefit of having a system for the people by the people will also be that in harsh times decisions like cutting jobs or freezing salaries will be better managed. Of course, when talking about people we can’t figure out the matter in terms of profit and loss. Investing in someone is neither a process with immediate results nor a guarantee of success. Even so, at least for a day, we should all remember that this industry is finally about the people who made it and continue to make it what it is today. Here’s to them.

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