The Winds of Change: How recruiters are dealing with the energy transition

Recently, it was announced that oil and gas giant Shell would unveil their ‘New Energies’ division, initiating their first move into the renewables market. With their latest bid already on the table with Eneco and Van Oord, if successful, the oil and gas corporation is set to build its first two offshore wind farms in the Dutch Borssele Zone, ensuring a future for the company during the current economic situation.

Over the last 5 years the upsurge in offshore wind has encouraged the oil & gas market to go green; developing new business lines, vessels and technology to avoid the puppetry of the “boom and bust cycle.” With the ‘cycle’s’ latest casualty, Harkand Group, still raw from entering administration, the industry has recognised the importance of the renewables market and is doing its upmost in the fight for survival. However, with more leaders transitioning into the renewables market, what does this mean for oil & gas personnel and the future of this sector?

Inside Recruitment

With more oil and gas personnel moving into the renewables sector, offshore recruiters have had to deal with a rapid growth of technical personnel. Atlas Professionals’ offshore wind team based in Bristol is one agency that has come to face these challenges head on, ensuring that their professionals, as well as newcomers, have the opportunity to become a part of this market. “The influx of personnel during this transition has remained steady,” explains Atlas’ Business Manager for Offshore Wind, Laura Smith. “However, we are seeing more niche positions coming through. For instance a mechanical technician from the oil and gas market called us the other day wanting to transfer into offshore wind.”

Premature positivity?

The energy transition has sparked discussions on the increase in opportunities for personnel, the similarities between technical skills and the potential of oil and gas professionals in the offshore wind sector. Surely this is good news! As the industry claims that with oil & gas personnel’s highly evolved experience and knowledge about energy developments, as well as a strong focus on QHSE matters, this will ensure a new revolution for the offshore wind market, its operation and production procedures and the advancement of the sector’s technology and innovation. The general positivity around the ‘transition’ is a nice change from the usual pessimistic view of the downturn, but what are the facts?

Although leaders are putting their trust in a new form of energy, their faith in experienced oil & gas personnel is still wavering, as they opt for the same professionals for their offshore wind operations. “This makes it really difficult for us recruiters,” says Laura, “we need to convince clients that newcomers have the right skills and knowledge to work on their projects.”

Companies are taking on new personnel, but this is happening sporadically, with leaders only enrolling small groups of professionals each time. “Although having the technical knowledge and skills are easily transferable, currently there is just not enough work to cater to everybody.”

The Solution

As ‘green becomes the new black’ offshore recruiters are starting to diversify in their markets. From shifting their focus beyond the cable-laying industry, Atlas’ offshore wind team can now supply personnel to the entire life cycle of an offshore wind farm. “Our team has a better structure now and we are able to offer a better service to our clients. In our office we have the dedicated Account Managers working with their assigned Personnel Coordinators who are backed up by our Admin & Operations Support teams.

By splitting our Account Managers into their specialism this allows our teams to cover more ground when recruiting new candidates. For example, we have a team of Account Managers that deal with Offshore Management and QC and have the expertise in providing clients with experienced candidates in people and operational management, such as Client Representatives and Construction and Installation Managers, while another team of Account Managers have expertise in Crewing, where the ability to multi-task and prioritise crew changes and all associated travel and logistics is paramount.”

In March, the team took the next step in ensuring the progression of their business line by hiring their new Business Development Manager John Morse, a well-known figure in the renewables market. “Before John joined the team, we were providing our services at the lower levels of the supply chain, but with his experience, knowledge and connections in this field we are able to follow our ambitions to work with tier 1 developers and EPC contractors. Being so low in the supply chain often led us to work seasonally; and only working on projects when the weather was good. Providing work, onshore as well as offshore, has made an immediate impact on our growth and more importantly the opportunities we are able to offer our professionals.”

Standing out from the crowd

“We stand out from our competitors by providing an excellent service. In our line of work we have two clients, the obvious ones that we invoice and our candidates, it’s just as important to provide a high standard of service to both parties and be on hand 24/7, 365 to assist them with whatever they need. Be personable, people buy from people, and it’s important that our teams make those relationships with the candidates and the clients to ensure that they have trust in us. Supplying the right person is ultimately so important; making sure that we are doing thorough CV checks, competency checks, and reference checks, to make sure that we provide the expertise our clients need.”

By 2050 the renewable sector in Europe alone could produce up to 6.1 million jobs. However, will the lack of trust in experienced oil and gas personnel mean that professionals are stuck in limbo? Unable to transfer to green or go back to black, let’s hope people haven’t jumped the gun on the renewables sector.

This article will be published in the next edition of Offshore Wind magazine.