Another concern raised was the ‘integration’ of not just the plant but also its operators, with engineers from refining backgrounds traditionally having a different set of skills and expertise compared with their counterparts from petrochemicals. In fact, talent issues in the downstream sector were one of the most hotly-debated topics during the Board’s discussions, and it became clear that this is truly a subject that keeps downstream leaders awake at night!
Although a swathe of mega-projects are under construction or have been announced across the region, the group warned that without a seismic shift in attitudes, there simply will not be enough qualified and experienced staff to operate these new plants. This is because fewer and fewer young people are choosing to study Chemical Engineering, meaning that traditional tactics such as partnering with universities to increase recruitment are no longer effective. Do refiners have to target high school students to secure the next generation of engineers?
The challenge doesn’t stop there – even among those that do study engineering, many go on to pursue careers outside the traditional refining sector. The group noted that even once engineers have entered the industry, the next step is keeping them. In this industry and beyond, society has evolved to consider the idea of a ‘career for life’ as an outdated concept. What can be done to attract bright young minds into the sector, and then retain them as the workforce of the future?
Keep your eyes peeled for some brand-new sessions at MERTC designed to tackle the talent challenge head-on!