A year ago, OPITO launched its highly successful Go Explore campaign designed to raise awareness of the oil&gas industry among young people with the aim of driving them to the oilandgas4u.com website.
There, they were informed about the industry and could find out how to go about accessing a career offshore.
At the time, many in the industry complained that they were unaware of it – as most of them were approaching my age, it was completely true.
The campaign was targeted at young people between the ages of 16 and 25, not grey-haired industry stalwarts.
Using what I believe was a highly effective mix of online, SMS text messages, bus and radio adverts and editorial coverage in targeted media, the campaign succeeded in increasing hits on the website fivefold, from just over 1,600 to almost 8,500 per month.
The campaign focused on Scotland with a bias towards areas outwith the north-east, where awareness of the industry is obviously much lower.
OPITO is in the final stages of tailoring similar campaigns to commence later this month. This time, there will be two campaigns running in parallel – one for the north-east of England, with another for east of England.
We are investing your money in raising awareness of the industry among young people in these regions with the overall aim of attracting more of them into a career in oil&gas.
While we hope the campaigns will be equally successful in terms of awareness-raising, we need to ensure that they work in terms of getting more people to join this industry.
And that is where you, as employers, come in.
The site encourages users to take a computer-based “taster test” to see how their skills and experience match up, with the option of then being directed straight to recruiting companies.
On the back of the Go Explore launch, the number of people taking the test increased 330%, from 488 (September 3-9) to 2,099 (September 10-16), representing a 151% increase in passes.
But what happened to these young people whose imagination we captured through this campaign?
Various discussions with youngsters and anecdotes lead me to believe that, in many cases, their first experience of the industry was not a welcoming one.
Many who applied to companies through specific job adverts or through the website did not even get a response to their initial inquiry. Even worse, some of the companies, despite wailing of skills shortages, were not interested in the test results.
It is wholly recognised that, in many cases, the crucial shortages are for experienced engineers or other technical disciplines. However, if we are to change the perception of this industry and effectively communicate that it is a long-term, viable and, indeed, exciting industry with great opportunities, we have to consider our response to those who do come knocking at our door.
OPITO has learned that good PR is highly effective in achieving our goals. This industry needs to improve its PR in relation to young people looking for work. One hacked-off young person who has repeatedly tried to get into the industry with no response will simply tell others of his or her bad experience on Facebook or Bebo.
OPITO will play its part by raising awareness of the opportunities and screening potential recruits for their suitability – after that it’s over to you.
When drafting that standard letter of “thanks, but no thanks”, or simply passing on even replying, instead consider what talent you may be missing or, worse, what damage to the industry you might be doing.
David Doig is CEO of the Oil & Gas Academy, which is headquartered in Aberdeen