Overcoming huge skills gap in oil and gas industry as bulk of workforce near retirement


By John Rudolph*THE oil and gas sector is facing significant challenges globally and regionally as it continues to lose its skilled human capital, mainly due to the high average age of plant operators. According to the World Petroleum Council, the average age of employees in oil and gas companies is 50 years old, meaning that within five to ten years the bulk of the current workforce will be retiring.The retirement of this generation of workers in this very important sector will leave a huge skills gap to be filled by millennials, who have on average a significantly lower job tenure. This new generation of employees needs to be trained quickly to come up-to-speed requiring a substantial amount of investment by industrial manufacturers. Companies are looking increasingly at technology for solutions that can help them fill the skills gap, including tools that leverage experiential and immersive technology. The role of technology is to tailor the learning experience to this upcoming generation that features characteristics that require more efficiency and effectiveness than ever before. Millennials are more technologically literate than any other generation, given that they grew up in the age of internet and social media, they’ve had access to more information than was ever available previously at the touch of a finger anytime and anywhere. They are also experiential learners who seek jobs that are personally fulfilling and that allow them to achieve success through continuous development.Immersive competency training is the type of workforce training that involves immersing an employee into the environment in which they will work in by leveraging virtual and augmented reality to produce a realistic simulation. The employee learns by getting to experience situations, problems, and challenges that they might face at work in real life. At Honeywell, we firmly believe that learning through experience is the most effective and efficient way to train the next generation of plant workers. We strive to break down the barrier between theoretical and applicative learning as they should complement each other seamlessly. We have developed a suite of immersive competency solutions as part of Honeywell Connected Plant to help manufacturers train their workforce through the actual working experience itself, making the transfer of knowledge much easier than ever before.Four Honeywell Automation Colleges operate currently across the GCC, with two of them located in Jubail and Dhahran in Saudi Arabia, one in Mina Abdullah, Kuwait and another in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Hundreds of chemical engineers, plant operators, maintenance technicians, process engineers and plant managers train at the facilities each year to learn skills required to safely and efficiently operate large plants. The training programs focus on enhancing employee performance, reducing the cost of unscheduled downtime and minimizing human errors. This is particularly important in the Middle East region where there is a big focus on preparing youth to become future energy and industry pioneers. For example, Honeywell continues to play a major role in the development of Saudi Arabia’s industries and local talent through numerous professional partnerships and training programs. These include a unique collaboration with King Fahd University for Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) on a pioneering petrochemicals production project as well as the Honeywell UOP University and Global TECPro initiatives, which are helping transform Saudi Arabia into a knowledge-based economy. Initiatives that help provide immersive and experiential training in the region for youth will help the development of local capabilities and future workforce. Honeywell’s Immersive Competency solution uses Microsoft’s HoloLens, the world’s first and only self-contained holographic computer, and Windows Mixed Reality headsets to simulate various plant scenarios. The headset allows users to access any training information whenever needed and wherever they are located. Honeywell can also monitor the system to find further training opportunities for the employee based on how they interact with the system or process, thereby validating the competency. The result is a continuous cycle of learning through operations to offer a lasting opportunity for training and development. Immersive Competency provides critical training method, not only to fill the industry skills gap left by an aging generation of experienced workers, but also to enable knowledge retention for new workers on a continuous basis. The outcome of Immersive Competency is improved plant performance on every level, as it offers the opportunity for every plant operator to become an experienced professional. * The writer is President and CEO, Honeywell Process Solutions


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