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Subsea Expo 2014: Offshore firms warned to stop poaching staff

Aker Solutions boss Matt Corbin
Aker Solutions boss Matt Corbin

Offshore industry bosses have pleaded with oil and gas firms to stop poaching each other’s staff amid a culture of spiralling wages and a deepening skills crisis.

They believe companies that lure staff away from their rivals are “hurting” the entire sector.

They want to see more focus on nurturing existing employees and attracting workers from other industries.

But they also believe firms have to be more active in promoting the sector to children and capturing the next generation of North Sea workers.

The bosses of major firms sent their stark message to the industry at the Subsea Expo event in Aberdeen yesterday.

One of the key features of the blueprint that industry doyen Sir Ian Wood has prepared on the future of the North Sea was the need for firms to share information and even assets.

He criticised in-fighting between rival companies – describing some commercial behaviour as “very damaging”.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE COVERAGE FROM THIS YEAR’S SUBSEA EXPO

Yesterday, Aker Solutions’ subsea division chief, Matt Corbin, said the only people benefiting from the hunt for energy industry staff were recruitment firms. He warned that salaries were being driven up to “unsustainable” levels.

Mr Corbin said: “It pains me to think that we as an industry continue to do ourselves an injustice, poaching staff from one another, inflating wages and rewarding recruitment companies. We don’t need to poach staff. It just hurts every one of us.”

Bibby Offshore chief operating officer Fraser Moonie also criticised the practice.

“The ever-increasing day rates and wages to try and get people in the door is not sustainable,” he said.

Mr Moonie insisted companies needed to focus instead on developing their own staff through training and recruiting from other industries.

“It baffles me that in a country famed for engineers, and with the high unemployment rate, we cannot support the demand for good, skilled engineers,” he said.

 BP subsea adviser and performance manager Ian Mitchell said: “We need to capture the next generation and one way of doing that is to promote our industry into primary and secondary schools before they make their subject choices.”

Chevron’s subsea systems manager, Peter Blake, said there was a dearth of engineers with the required skill sets and governments needed to make sure engineering was a valued sector.

“I don’t think that has been the case – it has been seen as an industry that is dirty and old-fashioned,” he said.

Scottish Enterprise’s head of oil and gas, David Rennie, said there was huge potential for government and industry to work together to sell the industry to potential jobseekers.

But he warned there were “significant challenges” with transport and house prices in Aberdeen.

Meanwhile, the chief executive of leading financial firm Simmons and Co, Colin Welsh, claimed teachers were to blame for not encouraging youngsters into a career in oil and gas.

He said: “Kids looking at oil and gas are told it’s bad for the environment and it’s a dirty place. I would reckon that teachers are to blame for the fact that engineering is not championed.

“The change in behaviour has to start with the teachers, who have to feel that the oil and gas industry is a worthwhile place to spend your career.”

But the secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland in Aberdeen, Grant Bruce, said: “It is not the job of teachers to influence pupils in making career choices, only to provide the information enabling them to make the choice themselves.

“In the Aberdeen area, pupils get valuable advice from staff at all levels of the oil and gas industry.

“They support our pupils and are always happy to give them careers advice in all our schools – as far as I am concerned we encourage young people into joining the industry.”

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