What has 2018 got in store for the North Sea? Shonah Raffan is managing director of Strategic Resources and tells P&J Recruitment how the industry has changed during her career
As a new year brings renewed optimism for the North Sea, we are reminded of the challenges faced and overcome over the previous 12 months – not only across the oil and gas industry, but all parts of the north-east business community.
Having recently celebrated our company’s 30th anniversary, we are well placed to comment on the state of the industry today, given the experience of numerous highs and lows over the past three decades.
When I first joined the company as an admin and accounts assistant in May 1988, later becoming managing director in 1996, there was a very different outlook from where we find ourselves today.
The picture appears brighter than it has done for some time; thanks to a combination of new and established players reaping the benefits of innovation, and adopting new technology.
Over the years we have adapted to broaden our range of services from general recruitment and contractor management services to executive search and outsourced payroll. More recently, we have become less reliant on our oil and gas customer base and expanded into non-oil related businesses in regions such as the north of England. Change means survival.
There has also been a significant increase in the number of firms internationalising their business and expanding into overseas markets; a pattern that looks likely to continue throughout 2018.
Despite these positive signs of recovery, we cannot ignore the fact that many businesses continue to face testing times. It’s hoped that spring and the return of warmer weather will bring with it a thaw in the short-sighted pursuit of cost-savings by any means.
Regardless of whatever has been happening in the wider world, the team here have always taken great pride in supporting the local community and other good causes. To mark the anniversary, we decided to give something back to three very worthy Aberdeen-based charities: Archway, Children 1st and JDRF.
As well as actively raising vital funds, we have teamed up with a city-centre primary school as part of a special campaign focused on the pupils’ future career aspirations.
Thanks to pupils and staff at the city’s Gilcomstoun Primary School, we have organised an art competition where more than 100 primary four to seven pupils have been tasked with drawing something that represents their chosen career or profession.
Representatives from each of the three charities will help with judging and there will be a special prizegiving ceremony in February where the winners will be announced.
We have long supported initiatives that seek to inspire the next generation of youngsters, particularly in the north-east. This has included distributing safety books to youngsters at a local primary school and our role in the Star Awards, working in partnership with the University of Aberdeen, where we helped provide guidance and workshops for writing CVs and answering interview questions.
These experiences have served as important reminders about the importance of creating pathways into the industry for the next generation and encouraging them to see a career in oil and gas as a viable and desirable goal.
Recruitment and retention of personnel has always been challenging for the oil industry, and traditionally companies have struggled to address this. However, we are seeing an increasing number of organisations, both public and private sector, created to support employability and further skills development – which is to be welcomed.
The biggest difference in the past 30 years – not just in recruitment – has been the ability to contact people, wherever they are, at any time of day. The way we deliver the service hasn’t changed; technology has benefited us greatly by offering new business opportunities.
It used to be that rolodex cards or manual filing was the order of the day for storing client details and candidate CVs. Contacting candidates was done by phone or letter; if you were lucky, you might receive a response three or four days later.
When faced with a candidate who was difficult to get hold of, a favourite trick of mine was to order the cheapest pot plant and have it delivered to their door with a message asking them to contact me. It worked a treat.
Ultimately, even after three decades in business, we remain a people business. I’m honoured to have several long-serving members of staff working alongside me for many years, and through some tough periods.
Our success over the past 30 years makes me very proud and I can’t wait to see what the next few years have to offer.