Although there are investment and development on the Norwegian continental shelf, oil and gas companies are struggling to attract the youth to the industry. This should be very worrying for the industry today and into the future.

– We are in a wave valley in terms of recruitment, and this is definitely a challenge for the industry.

From words to action

That says Erik Oppedal. He is the project director for Neptune Energy Norway, and the active operator is not the only one who has this concern. Companies such as Equinor, KAEFER Energy and Oceaneering also believe that something needs to be done to increase recruitment to Norway’s largest and most important industry.

– The industry has a reputation challenge. We have to talk it up before the youth escapes. Over the years, the industry has developed technology that directly contributes to sustainable solutions with lower costs, better safety, and reduced environmental emissions. We have a job to do when it comes to how we communicate this, and not least that we actually do what we say, says Erik Sæstad, VP & Country Manager at Oceaneering Norway.

He gets support from Torbjørg Opedal, head of Equinor’s network of company representatives who have contact with and are following up the suppliers on the Norwegian continental shelf. She believes that they have a job to do when it comes to promoting the industry, but she is pleased that increasingly more young people are showing interest in open positions and apprenticeships.

– Norway is going to have a great need for younger workers, and we must communicate this in the channels where we meet them. Production from the Johan Sverdrup field started in October and has a lifespan of 50 years. Also, we extend the life of existing installations on the Norwegian continental shelf.

– In 2019, Equinor had record-high applicant numbers in apprenticeship and professional positions. About 4700 applicants, divided into 150 apprenticeships and 250 professional positions. It shows that our industry still is attractive.

Also read: Improvement work has led to contracts and increased recruitment

Johan Sverdrup – a long-life project on the Norwegian Continental Shelf. Foto: Espen Rønnevik/Øyvind Gravås, Equinor

Big, bad wolf

In addition to the already mentioned Sverdrup, there are several other long-life projects on the Norwegian continental shelf. It is being built and invested, and more and more companies in the oil and gas industry are reporting about an increasing optimism. Nevertheless, several students are left with the impression that there is no life left in the industry. An ever-increasing “green” focus does not help with the reputation either, says Winusan Wijayaseelan. He is deputy leader of OTD students – a concept at this year’s Offshore Technology Days exhibition, made by and for students. Together with committee leader Hege Nilssen, Wijayaseelan and ten other petroleum students have tailored a program to inform and promote the importance of the Norwegian oil and gas industry.

– The youth read about the industry in the media, and there is often a negative focus and angle. This, combined with an increasing number of people going green, means that the industry is often seen as the big bad wolf in the media, says the deputy leader.

Also read: Students: – We believe in the oil industry!

Missing dialogue

Nilssen agrees that the media often has a negative angle, but believes the main responsibility lies with the companies working in the industry. They have hardly been visible in recent years, according to the leader of OTD students.

– It is a pity that many people opt out of the industry as an alternative, but companies must take more responsibility. Previously, they were good at contacting students. They came to the university to give lectures and inform, but they have hardly been to see in recent years. The young people generally get their information through the media, and then it is understandable that they choose other directions than the oil and gas industry, says Nilssen.

Wijayaseelan is also critical of the companies’ presence in colleges and universities but feels they have become better in recent years. For example, he visited Norske Shell earlier this month.

– It’s all about exposing yourself more and meeting those who are curious and want to enter the industry. I was a little surprised by the Shell visit. Through the media, I have got the impression that they want out of the Norwegian oil and gas industry, but after the visit, I have a completely different impression. It shows the media’s power, says the deputy leader.

Many possibilities

Equinor agrees that they can become better at showing the opportunities in the oil and gas industry. Neptune Energy agrees and emphasizes the importance of meeting the young people where they are – via media, social media and visits to colleges and universities. However, both operators believe this is a responsibility the entire industry share.

– The entire industry has a shared responsibility for communicating, informing and attending the youth’s arenas to promote the industry. Equinor is present at universities and colleges, and we encourage the youth to attend, says Opedal.

State Secretary Rikard Gaarder Knutsen. Photo: OED – Thomas Brun/NTBScanpix

State Secretary Rikard Gaarder Knutsen (FrP) of the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy says the government has made several actions to contribute to increased recruitment. He has been to several colleges and universities himself.

– There is a good set of study programs for the oil and gas industry, but young people are not sure if they should apply because they are afraid of not getting a job. Then it is our job, together with the industry, to tell about the opportunities. After all, they do not have to work exclusively with oil and gas with such an education. They may suddenly deliver drilling technology to the water and sewerage industry, or technology to the health industry. They do not close any doors by choosing the petroleum industry.

A future-oriented workplace

Gaarder Knutsen does not believe there is a good and simple answer on how to increase the reputation, but he feels confident that the industry has a good story to tell. He points out that large parts of the industry contribute with heavy technology and high technological expertise towards the green shift. The state secretary believes that the various companies in the oil and gas industry may be better at promoting, but says it is also about getting the right surfaces to do so.

– When things go against the industry, criticism comes first. You end up in a defensive position where you have to defend yourself. Then it’s not as easy to get column space to submit all the positive things we contribute with, he says and continues:

– Column place in the media is one thing, but you have to be where the discussion is. Conferences, debates, school visits, and social media are important in this work. We must show that the Norwegian oil and gas industry is a future-oriented workplace. There are many good reasons to apply. It will be demanding, but we will work together with the industry to succeed in increased recruitment and reputation in the years to come.