By Nelya Sokolyk, Practice Manager at Provide and Specialist Recruiter in Oil and Gas, G&G and Energy
While I sit here on a runway in Vienna waiting for my delayed plane to take off, I’ve been thinking back over this year’s EAGE exhibition that I’ve just attended. As I sip my wine and ease my aching feet from walking many miles of this major conference, here are my observations of what is called the ‘largest Geoscience event in the world!’.
If you didn’t get a chance to go to EAGE 2016 and are wondering what on earth is happening in the G&G sector at the moment (and if anyone is hiring at all), this may answer a few questions.
It would be fair to say that attendance was probably at a record low this year. Many booths sat empty and there was a noticeably low volume of foot traffic. That said, I’m more interested in focusing on who did attend, rather than who didn’t, and what they had to say about the state of the industry at present.
As a recruiter, I’m always keen to gain perspective from companies and individuals working in the sector, for a rounded view. Many were kind enough to talk to me and tell me what they had been doing in the downturn.
Many software producers and vendors with resources to do so have clearly taken the opportunity to invest in some excellent R&D and development work while business is quiet. As a result, they had some exciting developments to share with the industry which provided much needed optimism.
On the Seismic Survey/multi-client side of business there was evidence of an upturn in enquiries from oil companies, and hope for an increase in tendering activity.
Hardware companies were not so positive and pessimistically (or realistically) weren’t expecting an improvement in the market until this time next year. However, many of the companies I spoke to were involved in maintenance and repair services, which may have affected optimism – either that or it was the 4pm time slot on the last day that brought out the gloomy outlook.
Overall, many companies agree that there seems to be a boost in confidence from oil producers who are investing further into new and future projects.
Flexibility in pricing appears to be a strategy for many too, which is a wise move according to one of the industry’s leading experts at the event. According to a COO of a seismic firm I have worked with, it’s quite likely that this time of the year is a one where applications and licensing rounds are on the horizon and the industry is nearing the period where companies are starting to think about budgets for 2017. It’s not like I’ve been checking every day (ok, maybe few times a day) but recent stability in oil prices didn’t hurt either.
Interestingly, few C-level management contacts at the event mentioned M&A activity, considering some big announcements from the likes of FEI. As one of my clients put it well, it’s a good time to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
So, how does all this relate and translate to recruitment in the sector?
I heard about a few interesting moves, as usual, on the senior hires front, which suggest that restructuring and change management is still on the cards for many companies moving towards a lean business model.
From the job-seekers side, I was shocked to see very few except for the odd herd of students who are understandably becoming more concerned about working in this sector. On the flipside however it was great to see companies like Maersk promoting their post-grad schemes and EAGE taking the initiative by providing a dedicated-student area with specialist talks/ and advisors on hand.
A few commented to me that maybe EAGE should have made attendance to the exhibition free, to allow those who are looking for opportunities to network. It’s pretty common these days to offer free passes to jobseekers so it’s a shame that the organisers didn’t follow suit.
Recruitment is still happening – but on very low scale. Positive discussions are taking place too as a few companies are already thinking about how to ramp up headcount when the market improves next year. Many senior managers are also acknowledging the importance of building their brand name in the downturn.
Overall, I feel that that we will start to see some improvements in volume in hiring activity in Q4 as companies begin to build on the skeleton staff they’ve been running on. I promise you, this optimism is fueled by my conversations during the event – and not the glass of wine I’ve just finished!
It would be great to get some feedback and thoughts on the event.