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North Sea firms must dig deep to find diverse workforce, Shell top manager warns

(L-R) Claire Scott, Craig Shanaghey and Teresa Waddington.
Picture by Abermedia / Michal Wachucik
(L-R) Claire Scott, Craig Shanaghey and Teresa Waddington. Picture by Abermedia / Michal Wachucik

North Sea firms must dig deeper into the talent pool to find “unicorns” within the workforce, a Shell plant boss warned yesterday.

Teresa Waddington, natural gas liquids plant manager for Shell in Fife, said operators and contractors wanting to be diverse and inclusive should target people who might not ordinarily apply and were currently “invisible” to employers.

She called on the north-east oil and gas sector to “redress the balance and really champion diversity”.

She added: “As a manager I write a job description for a unicorn and then I pick from a stable of horses – that’s the reality of it.

“A lot of people count themselves out when they don’t meet the unicorn job description in the first place.

“The first step is recognising that you can go beyond picking who is in front of you – actively looking for people who are not a normal fit and who might not realise they could apply for that job.”

Urging more north-east firms to consider the future and the industry’s energy transition challenge, she said: “What diversity does is it insures you against a whole bunch of potential future scenarios by bringing together a group of people who can do things that companies have never done before.

“Hiring only known skillsets will get you more of the same.”

Ms Waddington was speaking as part of a panel discussion at an Oil and Gas UK (OGUK) diversity and inclusion business breakfast at P&J Live in Aberdeen.

She shared a stage with Pinsent Masons legal director Claire Scott, Judith Rennie of CNR International, Petrofac’s Roy Choudhury and diversity and inclusion taskforce chairman Craig Shanaghey.

Ms Scott said firms embracing diversity and inclusion would automatically “unlock a pool of talent” and help drive their businesses forward.

She added it was time for the sector to “look at things in a different way”.

Ms Scott and Mr Shanaghey agreed the diversity and inclusivity drive within the sector must be “open and honest”, and not about “hitting quotas” but changing a culture.

Last September, the Aberdeen X-Industry Support Network announced a commitment to move the North Sea industry towards a better gender balance.

A total of 32 firms, including Cnooc, CNR International, Shell, Spirit Energy, TechnipFMC and Total, have signed up.

OGUK chief executive Deirdre Michie, who chaired yesterday’s discussion, said firms should “not just accept what’s in front of them” when interviewing job candidates.

She added: “Teresa articulated very well that as a sector we shouldn’t just make assumptions and we should continue to be curious.

“If someone presents you with a list of candidates, it’s okay to say ‘let’s have another go’.

“We must attempt to shift the culture because big grand gestures are not enough.”

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